Ongoing reports of alleged corruption in government – specifically in relation to the provision of medical supplies as a result of Covid-19 – are deeply unsettling, and pose a threat to the provision of proper medical care to patients, says the South African Medical Association (SAMA).
The group warns that improprieties in medical tenders not only damage the country’s economy and reputation, but its ability to care for the sick.
“Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of alleged wrongdoing and corruption. The most recent high-profile case involve the spokesperson to the president.
“As a professional body representing doctors we take a strong stand against these purported abuses,” said Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA.
Coetzee said that recent anti-corruption sentiments from the president remain 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.
Dr Coetzee notes that the latest reports follow 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 lack 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 where corruption is evident yet no action is taken and we are stunned by the seemingly non-interventionist approaches to these incidents,” said Coetzee.
“The billions of rands which have allegedly been siphoned off legitimate channels has the effect that doctors and other healthcare workers are treating patients without the proper PPE, are having to work without proper equipment to diagnose patients, and the patients themselves have to suffer more in the often pitiful wards of dysfunctional hospitals.
“We can simply not continue like this, something has to give.”