- MEC for Health in Kwazulu-Natal
TAC notes with great concern reports that KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Health Peggy Nkonyeni has renewed and intensified her witch hunt against doctors employed at Manguzi Hospital in rural Umkhanyakude district. Nkonyeni, who was recently implicated in a Scorpions investigation into fraud and corruption in the KZN Health Department, has called on provincial Treasury to “probe the disposal of donor funding” given to Manguzi for the purposes of funding dual-regimen therapy for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT).
Ostensibly the Treasury audit is aimed at investigating allegations made by the MEC that private donations made to Manguzi to support the hospital’s highly successful dual-therapy PMTCT programme were raised outside of official authorised channels. In reality however the probe is a veiled attempt by Nkonyeni to misuse state resources in order to pursue a petty personal vendetta against doctors working at the Hospital. We have also received information that Nkonyeni plans to extend her separate investigation into spurious allegations of misconduct by Doctor Mark Blaylock who attracted the personal wrath of the MEC after he threw her photo into a rubbish bin in February. In their unjustifiable crusade to ruin the personal and professional reputation of Dr. Blaylock, Ms. Nkonyeni’s staff have, in violation of medical ethics and his right to patient confidentiality, made public elements of Dr. Blaylock’s private medical history.
On 21 May TAC met with the ANC’s leadership in KwaZulu-Natal including newly elected ANC provincial chairperson Dr. Zwele Mkhize as well as Ms. Nkonyeni, who is now party treasurer for the province. At this discussion it was resolved that the Department of Health would convene a broad stakeholders meeting aimed at amicably resolving the dispute between the MEC and medical officers at Manguzi hospital. MEC Nkonyeni undertook to convene this meeting within two weeks and that representatives from the Department, TAC, the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and the Rural Doctor’s Association of South Africa would be invited. This meeting was never organised and attempts to follow-up with the MEC’s office have been met with rebuff.
We are dismayed by the MEC’s lack of commitment to resolving her dispute with the clinicians of Manguzi Hospital in polite and respectful manner and we are deeply concerned over her continued misuse of public funds and resources to settle personal scores. We are furthermore appalled that the MEC’s office would make reference to Dr. Blaylock’s personal and private medical records in its attempt to discredit him. Ms. Nkonyeni’s smear campaign against the doctors of Manguzi Hospital has undermined health care service delivery in the district, further exacerbated the province’s already acute shortage of human resources for health, and jeopardised the future of Manguzi’s exceptional PMTCT programme, potentially putting the lives of many infants at risk.