- The expensive Eastern Cape Health Department medical scooters project has come under scrutiny
- Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has been criticised for his involvement in the project, which was questionable from the beginning
- Mkhize has made a U-turn, saying the scooters do not meet the criteria to transport patients, and people are not impressed with the waste of tax money
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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has come under fire for his endorsement of a seemingly unscrupulous medical scooters procurement deal.
Mkhize has admitted medical scooters in the Eastern Cape, at a cost of R10 million, do not meet the basic criteria for "patient transport as an ambulance".
The minister announced this in response to a written Parliamentary question from DA MP Siviwe Gwarube, who wanted details on whether the scooters were suitable for patient transport.
Mkhize said the national Department of Health was not consulted on specifications before the procurement of the scooters.
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The minister's response was:
"No, the scooter project that was launched by the Eastern Cape Department of Health does not meet the basic criteria for patient transport as an ambulance.
"The purpose of this project by ECDOH is mainly for widening access to primary healthcare and delivering of chronic medicine for the most remote areas of the Eastern Cape province.
"The province has been advised that none of these scooters will be used as ambulances because they do not meet the specific requirements as provided for in the EMS regulations, such as minimum patient compartment space and equipment requirements"
News24 reported that a R10 million tender had been awarded to a King William's Town company to supply 100 ambulance scooters to the Eastern Cape Department of Health. The company is now also under investigation.
Brian Harmse, the owner of Fabkomp, the company that received the tender, has shed some light on the controversial project.
Speaking to 702, Harmse said:
"The was a tender that went out and they wanted 100 clinics. A 'clinic' was a motorcycle side car that can go out to rural areas.
"Basically a clinic out in the rural environment. The tender was for 100 clinics and no ambulances at all. We don't have the order number yet, I haven't supplied a single unit and I haven't been paid."
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Harmse said the tender was meant to purely get medical services to the rural environment.
The department confirmed that the Bid Adjudication Committee (BAC) was reviewing the processes followed in the awarding of the contract.
On 12 June, Mkhize and Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba unveiled six scooters fitted with a bed on one side and a overhead gazebo with a first aid kit and oxygen on board.
Gomba said at the time they were meant to ferry patients from far-flung, remote rural areas to clinics and hospitals.
Mkhize was criticised for making a U-turn on the project after he seemed pleased with things at the unveiling of the medical scooters.
Meanwhile, earlier Briefly.co.za reported that the DA has approached the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate this medical scooter project.
The DA and the EFF both blasted the Eastern Cape government for the seemingly archaic scooters.
Gwarube said the DA would submit Mkhize's latest response to the SAHRC as supplementary evidence in the investigation they have committed to.
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