Bloom refuses to retract criticism of suspended health MEC Bandile Masuku
DA spokesperson on health in Gauteng, Jack Bloom, said he will not retract a statement he made last week alleging financial mismanagement at the Nasrec field hospital in Johannesburg.
On Thursday, through his legal team, suspended health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku threatened legal action if Bloom does not apologise and retract his statements. He gave Bloom 24-hours to retract his statement regarding the admission of patients at the Nasrec field hospital.
The facility, which Bloom said on Wednesday cost about R350m, was meant to accommodate at least 1,500 patients.
“According to a presentation made to the Gauteng legislature’s oversight committee on the premier’s office and legislature, the Nasrec field hospital was commissioned on June 15 this year and has so far admitted 604 patients for quarantine and isolation, and 96 patients for intermediate care including oxygen.
“The total bed capacity is 1,500 but there were only 25 patients as of August 28 2020. The facility has cost about R350m in total, which means R500,000 has been spent on each patient,” Bloom said.
Masuku accused Bloom of spreading false information.
Today Bloom told TimesLIVE he stood by his statement and his party was prepared to defend him in court.
“I’m not going to retract anything. All we need from the MEC is to know there was value for money at that facility. This is the same MEC who is accused by his own party of failing to exercise political oversight in his department,” Bloom said.
Masuku, who has been at the centre of a Covid-19 corruption storm, said not only were Bloom’s remarks factually inaccurate, but also aimed at misleading the public and tarnishing his image.
The provincial government is facing a R2bn personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal which led to Masuku and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko being placed on special leave. Masuku’s wife, Loyiso, a member of Johannesburg's mayoral committee, has also stepped aside until the ANC takes a decision about her future.
Their leave of absence has been extended as they deal with the contents of a report on their conduct by the party’s integrity commission.
Defending the provincial government’s decision to set up makeshift hospitals, Masuku said they had to plan for the worst case scenario to prevent many deaths.
The facility had since reduced bed capacity while the provincial government discontinued further construction of field hospitals.
Masuku’s legal representative, Mojalefa Motalane, told TimesLIVE he hasn’t received a response from Bloom.
“The 24 hours we gave him expire before the end of today (Friday). We will then take further instruction,” Motalane said.
He reiterated Masuku’s statement that the approach by Bloom and that of the DA is dangerous, misguided and reckless.
“It is an attempt to score cheap political points at the expense of the lives of the people. As far as our client is concerned, at the time of procuring the Nasrec facility the costs per patient were estimated to be at R770, excluding VAT. The facility has been adjusted to accommodate 503 beds.”