The recent suspension of Professor Ebrahim Variava and the subsequent lifting of his suspension briefly placed the North West Department of Health in the national spotlight – a department that has been under administration for over two years. Marcus Low asks whether the latest developments are just a blip on the department’s road to recovery, or are they symptomatic of still deeply entrenched dysfunction.
A Gauteng-based ambulance operator, Buthelezi EMS, that is currently the subject of both Hawks and Treasury investigations has scored road and air ambulance contracts in the so-called Premier league provinces amounting to over a Billion Rand since 2013 and they are frontrunners to secure a lucrative new three year tender for Emergency Medical Services in the Free State.
Doctors and nurses in the Free State and North West have accused Buthelezi EMS, the private company contracted to run provincial ambulance services, of operating like a minibus taxi and “drop and go” service.
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has asked treasury to investigate the procurement of ambulance services from Buthelezi EMS, a controversial private ambulance company that has been awarded large contracts in the Free State and North West.
The North West health department has effectively outsourced the bulk of its emergency medical service to a private ambulance company who is submitting hugely inflated invoices every month with very little appetite by officials to stop the looting.
Spotlight joins the dots in this two-part investigative feature Health4Sale.