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Health activists outraged over ‘victimisation’ of w...

Maverick Citizen

MESSENGER SILENCED

Health activists outraged over ‘victimisation’ of Rahima Moosa paediatrician Tim De Maayer

Dr Tim De Maayer. (Photo: Supplied)

The Progressive Health Forum, a forum of leading health activists from around South Africa – many of whom have close connections with the ANC and occupy senior positions in the health system – on Wednesday night issued a press statement strongly condemning ‘reports that Dr Tim De Maayer, despite his reinstatement, is still being subjected to a disciplinary process by the same officials who had so unwisely crafted his suspension’.

The Progressive Health Forum (PHF) statement says that: “He [Dr Tim De Maayer] and colleagues were informed that he will be served with a warning letter, an important step towards what we expect will be his eventual dismissal.”

It adds that, “Dr De Maayer was allegedly also forced to apologise to the CEO of the facility [Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital] who signed his letter of suspension, reportedly because he had sent a brief text to colleagues and others thanking them for their support during his ordeal and which, accordingly, will now be used against him because he did not follow explicit orders to remain completely mute.”

Read in Daily Maverick: Dr Tim de Maater, Rahima Moosa hospital whistle-blower, suspended

Read in Daily Maverick: Whistleblower paediatrician’s suspension lifted after massive public outcry

According to Dr Aslam Dasoo, spokesperson for the PHF, this information “was provided to him by a reporter from MedScape who contacted me. I referred her to the premier’s office, which confirmed that a disciplinary process was underway but would not elaborate.” 

This contradicts a statement issued by the Gauteng Health Department on 10 June 2022 that “the meeting [between herself, the CEO Dr Kunayi and Dr De Maayer] was fruitful and the matter has been resolved amicably”. 

The statement added that “the management team of RMMCH has agreed to work together to address the issues raised in Dr De Maayer’s article”.

Read in Daily Maverick: Doctors support paediatrician’s account of collapse at Rahima Moosa as Gauteng Health officials push back

Approached to comment on the PHF statement, Kwara Kekana, spokesperson for the MEC for Health, said that “any disciplinary process in the department, including at facilities, is a matter between the employer and employee. And as such the department is not in a position to discuss the matter further. And maintains that the matter has been resolved amicably.”

Last night, Dr De Maayer – who has been back at work since Monday – was unwilling to comment on the statement.

Read in Daily Maverick: A wake-up call for Health Department heads: Children are dying because of horrendous state of our public hospitals

On the other hand, health professionals reacted angrily. 

Prof Ames Dhai, an internationally respected health ethicist and former director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, said that “the CEO [Dr Nozuko Mkabayi] must respond to the reality on the ground. Inefficiency, mismanagement and power dynamics at the level of her office clearly drastically undermines patient health leading to unconscionable morbidity and mortality. 

“She cannot silence everyone. I am happy to have this message posted to her.”

Read in Daily Maverick: Dr Tim de Maayer’s act of conscience highlights new power balance between politicians and civil servants

Dr Glenda Gray, president of the Medical Research Council, also condemned the continued victimisation of De Maayer. 

Gray drew attention to a tweet from Buang Jones, the head of the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Gauteng, who had visited the hospital earlier this week and commented that the meeting with the CEO “was painful. She was dismissive, she didn’t understand that our process is meant to enhance accountability to ensure that there is responsiveness on the part of the hospital to provide quality health care to patients”. (Watch here)

Jones also called for better protection of whistle-blowers and said that the SAHRC had scheduled seven further meetings with the hospital for “period updates” on progress.

Read in Daily Maverick: Rahima Moosa hospital problem ‘has metastasised throughout the healthcare system in South Africa

The PHF ended its statement with a call on the Gauteng provincial government “to initiate an urgent enquiry into this egregious administrative act, as well as into the conduct, especially of the CEO, who has reportedly exhibited tendentious behaviour on previous occasions both in her role at Rahima Moosa Hospital and at other facilities, where she failed to respond to the legitimate concerns of clinicians and now appears intent on conducting a vindictive campaign against Dr De Maayer, with the support of the Gauteng Dept of Health”.

It added that “the inquiry must, at the least, determine the following: 

– The reasons the reinstatement of the whistle-blower is not unconditional. 

– Whether the conduct of the CEO and others, who ignored all the communication sent through the correct channels before Dr De Maayer went public, is legitimate.

– Under whose authority and with whose support the CEO suspended Dr De Maayer and whether she is fit for continued appointment at a tertiary health facility.

– Whether the administrative regime of the Gauteng Dept of Health is compatible with the ethical framework of a health system in a democracy. DM/MC

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