Vehicles from the Scooter Project.
- Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane plans to continue with the controversial medical scooter project.
- Mabuyane says the project was approved by Cabinet last year and his province will continue with it despite criticism.
- The province has lost more than 2 000 healthcare workers to Covid-19, he says.
The Eastern Cape government plans to continue with its R10 million medical scooter project, Premier Oscar Mabuyane said during a media briefing on Tuesday.
He added the 100 medical scooters acquired by the provincial health department was first discussed by the national Cabinet last year as an innovative intervention for primary healthcare in rural areas.
“We said we don’t want people in hospitals, we must have capacity in our clinics to distribute medicine.”
Mabuyane said he had commissioned a comprehensive report on the project after the provincial government and health department were criticised.
“It’s a service that we need [in the Eastern Cape]. We have got to reconcile it with all the other issues, and so on, to make a point that we remove all doubt and all the negativity around it,” he added.
The controversial medical scooter project, launched on 12 June in East London, was touted as a solution to address the issue of people having to be carted around in wheelbarrows to hospitals in rural areas.
However, it was viewed as a failure by the public, with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize admitting the medical scooters did not meet the requirements to be used as ambulances.
On the day of the launch, six scooters fitted with a bed, gazebo, first aid kit and oxygen were unveiled by Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba and Mkhize.
Due to mounting public outrage and questions raised over the tender for the 100 medical scooters, a bid adjudication committee was assembled to review the processes followed in awarding the tender. The investigation was commissioned by the Eastern Cape Department of Health.
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The project received more bad reviews when Mkhize, who initially praised it at the launch and promised to urge other provinces to follow suit, made an about turn.
He told Parliament the medical scooters did not meet the basic criteria for “patient transport as an ambulance”.
The province has also been largely criticised over its collapsing healthcare sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Staff shortages, inefficient ICU beds and an overall ailing healthcare system were some of the criticisms placed at the provincial government’s door.
Mabuyane said at least 2 000 of healthcare workers in the province have been infected and 35 died due to the virus.
“The current pandemic presents us with an opportunity to fundamentally transform the provincial department to improve its efficiency and effectiveness in delivering services to our people.
“The intervention of the project management unit is part of starting this transformation process and the benefits for the people of our province will be a highly efficient and quality healthcare system they yearn for,” he added.
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