EC health department puts brakes on medical motorbikes

STOPPED IN THEIR TRACKS The Eastern Cape health department has halted the plans to send 100 modified medical motorbikes to rural areas.
Image: EC MEC Health via Facebook

The use of 100 motorbikes to transport patients in Covid-hit Eastern Cape has been put on hold because the provincial health committee has raised questions about the R10.2m tender to supply the vehicles.

Provincial health spokesperson Siyanda Manana told Times Select that if stakeholders did not reach an agreement, “we will have no option but to reconsider our decision”.

Three weeks ago, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, health MEC Sindiswa Gomba and premier Oscar Mabuyane announced the use of 100 motorbikes to help transport rural patients.

Fabkomp, in King William’s Town, was awarded a R10.2m tender to supply the specially adapted vehicles, which ferry patients seated or lying down in a sidecar. The covered, waterproof motorbikes were to be sent in the province’s rural areas.

They were scorned on social media, with people querying the type of care that would be delivered by personnel and whether they would be able to navigate rural roads.

Questions about the cost of the vehicles were also raised.

Manana confirmed that Fabkomp was awarded the contract, but a final order has not been issued “because of discomfort with the motorbikes … expressed by the portfolio committee.

“Other stakeholders, including the SA Human Rights Commission and the public, expressed displeasure with the motorbikes and the matter was referred back to the bid adjudication committee to ensure the process and all related matters find commonality with all stakeholders,” Manana said.

Two weeks ago, the DA reported the department to the SAHRC, as it wanted the suitability of the motorbikes investigated.

The SAHRC’s spokesperson, Gushwell Brooks, said: “According to the Eastern Cape provincial manager, Abongile Sipondo, the commission is not aware of the complaint yet and we will only be able to confirm receipt of the complaint by next week.”

A report seen by Times Select, dated June 23 and sent to health standing committee chairperson Mxolisi Dimaza, said it was yet to receive the official order from the department.

“We are technically not allowed to build until we receive an official order number. We have no intention to manufacture or deliver without the order number,” Harmse said.

He said the motorbikes could accommodate two community health workers to carry out functions such as Covid-19 screening and testing, as well as testing for other communicable diseases, such as TB and HIV, and general health issues, such as high-blood pressure.

Harmse said his company imported the motorcycles, but all other components were manufactured and fitted in its factory.

Each costs R82,250, which included sidecar, canopy, chairs and adult and infant scales.

His company has hit another snag, though.

“Due to the Covid lockdown, we closed our factory for 2½ months and customers are paying us late, as they are also facing cash-flow challenges.

“We will be able to produce the orders, but a little deposit from the department will help during these tough times,” Harmse said.

He added that the first 20 units would be supplied in four weeks, once the company received the order.

Dimaza confirmed receiving the report from Harmse and said he had requested a meeting with the health and transport departments, and the premier’s office.

Two weeks ago, Mkhize defended the project. “If people think there’s something wrong or corrupt then they can give us information and we will deal with that,” he said.

Mphumzi Zuzile

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