A tender given to a company which had a tax glitch has resulted in hundreds of state cancer patients waiting months for bone scans, with some so desperately in need they were put on buses to the Western Cape.
The standoff due to the tax issue has brought the construction of a special bunker for a bone scanner at Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital to a halt.
Now Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi has been asked to step in and explain the situation to the provincial legislature.
The hospital’s old scanner broke down around January this year and technicians said it could no longer be fixed as it was too old.
A new multimillion-rand machine was purchased, but is standing idle at provincial hospital as it needs a special concrete bunker for health and safety reasons.
The old casualty unit at Livingstone Hospital was identified as a suitable place for the installation of the new machine.
But Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the delays were caused by a standoff over the tax situation of the contractor.
“The contractor we appointed had tax problems and we have insisted that he needs to get his tax situation in order before he can continue with the building,” Kupelo said.
“We are now looking for an alternative contractor and we have approached the supply chain unit to find a compliant service provider.”
He said the construction of the bunker was a specialised job.
“We anticipate that construction will resume soon to ensure this machine can be used,” he said.
Two patients with severe back problems, who asked not to be named as they feared being victimised, told The Herald they had been sent to Cape Town by bus to get bone scans.
The DA’s Celeste Barker said the appointment of a contractor that was not tax-compliant was reckless and careless.
“It will increase patient suffering, delay service provision and add to the already overstretched bed utilisation rates,” she said.
“Those in need will have their healthcare compromised by the inefficient and careless appointment process. This will undoubtedly cost lives and cause unspeakable agony.”
Barker said she would submit questions to the legislature, asking Dyantyi to explain how this had happened.
Fikile Boyce, of the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Coalition Action Group, said it did not help for the department to boast about “substantial investment” in radiotherapy in Nelson Mandela Bay and the Sarah Baartman District.
“A new machine that cannot be installed is as bad as no machine . Taxpayers’ money is being wasted while people die,” he said.