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Sat May 23 13:52:13 SAST 2015

Health MEC under fire over helicopter

THANDO MGAGA | 14 November, 2012 00:02
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo
Image by: Thuli Dlamini

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo yesterday refused to say why he was flying in a medical emergency helicopter desperately needed by a teenage boy dying at a car crash.

Three members of the Maharaj family were killed in a car accident in Pinetown on November 3. When parademics trie d to get a helicopter to airlift the sole survivor, 15-year-old Asheen, to hospital, they were told one would be sent from Richards Bay to transport the teenager to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital .

The closer helicopter - worth R10-million and costing R20000 an hour to use - was unavailable because Dhlomo was using it.

The Sunday Tribune reported on Sunday that medical staff had then transported Asheen to hospital by ambulance but he was declared brain-dead on arrival.

Dhlomo refused to explain to the provincial legislature why he was using the helicopter. Instead, he tol d a departmental official to get comment from his head of department, Sibongile Zungu, who was not available.

The DA was also unsuccessful in getting an explanation from Dhlomo during the legislature's special full sitting yesterday.

"We need a clear explanation from the MEC as to what exactly happened on November 3. The legislature deserves it and the Maharaj family deserves to know exactly what was happening on that day," said DA MPL Mark Steele.

"It would be helpful to hear what those reasons were. I have no doubt the MEC is a person of integrity and I believe he would want to explain that there were other emergencies, perhaps, that needed to be dealt with."

The DA and the Inkatha Freedom Party have both asked Dhlomo to explain his use of the specialised helicopter. It often takes up to two weeks for opposition parties to receive a reply.

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