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Corruption is threatening patient care, warns SA Medical Association

That is the view of the South African Medical Association which said on Wednesday graft claims relating to medical supply tenders were unsettling and damaged the country’s ability to care for the sick.

FILE: A City of Tshwane Health official takes a nasal swab to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus on a taxi operator at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria Central Business District, on 11 June 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN – The latest allegations of corruption involving public funds meant for the fight against the coronavirus pandemic could pose a threat to the provision of proper medical care to patients.

That is the view of the South African Medical Association (Sama), which said on Wednesday that graft claims relating to medical supply tenders were unsettling and not only damaged the country’s economy and reputation, but its ability to care for the sick.

Sama has also called for immediate action to address the matter.

“Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of alleged wrongdoing and corruption. The most recent high-profile case involves the spokesperson to the president. As a professional body representing doctors, we take a strong stand against these purported abuses,” said the chairperson of Sama Dr Angelique Coetzee in a statement.

Coetzee said that Sama agreed with President Cyril Ramaphosa that corruption puts lives at risk, but that his sentiments remained hollow without meaningful, transparent, and visible action, particularly from the highest office in the country.

“As doctors, we are on the frontline of fighting coronavirus every day – putting our own and our family’s lives at risk every time we report for work to assist the sick. When medical equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) is the focus of alleged wrongdoing we expect immediate and urgent action. Unless it is done and seen to be done, irregularities will continue, and continue to burden an already over-stretched health sector,” she said.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing dozens of tenders signed over the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.

Dr Coetzee said that the latest reports of corruption followed a string of similar incidents, including the disastrous medical scooter debacle in the Eastern Cape, lack of proper equipment in state hospitals across the country, and companies being established specifically to do business with health departments to secure relief funding, even though they lacked proper experience in the sector.

“The list goes on and on. There is clearly no accountability in government nor, apparently, a political will to deal with corruption. If there was, we believe, the strong message would have been supported by equally strong action which we don’t see. There are many occasions were corruption is evident yet no action is taken and we are stunned by the seemingly non-interventionist approaches to these incidents,” Coetzee said.

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