Dear Editor

Flash, flesh
Let me just point out that, firstly, FLASH (as in “flash trash”, a reference to me in “Another bad day ... for Investec”, nose124), is something you will never have or understand; and secondly, CASH (as in R1bn lent to me by Investec) is an even bigger dream for you and your washed-up writers.

Write all you want, you are still looking stupid, based on the fact that I am still in business, and business is good. You don’t have the CASH or FLESH in this case to even waste my time to sue you, but I am sure our paths will cross along the way, whereupon I will get my full pound of FLESH – I look forward.

Research your client Vivien Natasen, old chap, then you will see what a real scoundrel is.

Zunaid Moti
Abalengani, Sandton

Hunh? One of us is confused. We thought Mr Natasen was your client – not ours. Please advise soonest. PS: The last person who had nasty things to say about Mr Natasen was Edith Venter, who had to eat her words and repay the R400,000 he had lent her. Ed.

Health uncare
I am writing to express my disgust and concern at Life Fourways Hospital’s treatment of a child admitted there and her consequent death (noses123&124).

My deepest condolences to the family of Zenande Mdwaba for their terrible experience at the hands of the alleged incompetents entrusted with the lives of human beings in Lifecare Group’s hospitals. 

I sincerely hope that the doctors and staff responsible for this awful injustice are punished.

Eddie Windsor
Marina da Gama

Fleecing medical aids is not the sole preserve of the Lifecare Group (nose124).

A few years ago, while my wife and I were cycling through La Lucia, she took a tumble, and was taken by a kindly passerby to the nearby Netcare Umhlanga Hospital. She had sustained a cut to the back of her head, caused by the bicycle landing on top of her, a cut to the chin and numerous grazes. By the time I had sorted out bicycles and fetched my car to get there, I found her sitting in the out-patients accounts section.

Her story: “They rushed me to out-patients and a doctor immediately came to examine me, and started giving instructions to the nurse – ‘We need an immediate brain scan, X-ray of the neck and chin, X-ray of the hands’ – at which point I interrupted and said “Hold on – we don’t have medical aid”.

To which the doctor responded: “OK, clean her up and she can go.”

Rob H

Your feature on “Why hospitals are bad for your health” gave a true picture of the abuse routinely practised by the private hospitals. However, this has been taking place for many years.

I am an optometrist. Perhaps 20 years ago a patient of mine had just qualified as a urologist and had taken rooms in the Garden City Clinic. He told me that at the end of his first month the big boss of the hospital gave him an envelope containing cash. He queried this and was told “My boy, I am in the business of running hospitals, not renting out rooms. As long as you help make the hospital pay, your rent will be returned to you each month”.

In another case I referred a patient to an opthalmologist who, in turn, referred the patient to a neurologist for a scan. A while later I received a cheque from the hospital. Suspecting a kickback, I tried to get the hospital manager to explain in writing the reason for the payment. This he was not prepared to do, saying “just cash the cheque”.

I would prefer not to be named as I might sour relations with our local medical fraternity.

Name withheld

The National Health Professions Council is unquestionably dysfunctional in many respects. The “admission of guilt option“ offered to practitioners who have been accused (nose124) shows just how an institution for the health professions, but headed by an advocate, can lose the plot when it comes to medical ethics. Other unhappy features of that body include the inability to monitor and properly manage matters such as registering foreign graduates, tracing unregistered and unqualified people calling themselves doctors, and managing Continuing Professional Development points, to name but a few.
I would, however, like to correct a few possible misconceptions: in our law, recognised complications of medical treatment do not necessarily amount to negligence, nor does honest human error. [We have never suggested otherwise. They are, however, contingencies that can, and should, be covered by insurance.Ed.]

It is only if the practitioner’s reaction to the discovery of either is inadequate or inappropriate, that negligence becomes relevant. Having said that, I am in hearty agreement with your attitude that a significant percentage of South African medical private practitioners have become greedy and materialistic to a frightening degree.

Jean Elferink
Cape Town

I found your article “A spine chilling screw up” for the most part objective and fair – except that it lacks context. The question of a misdirected screw [in the course of a back operation], while it does not happen often, is something which may easily occur, despite X-ray control and screening, and for the most part causes only pain. When corrected and the screw is reset, the whole situation is resolved. Dr Preddy, the orthopaedic surgeon involved, is an excellent surgeon and his rate of misdirected screws or complications is very, very low. So the words “spine chilling” and “botched” or “screw-up” only apply if one is sensationalising.

But I agree with the thrust of your article and urge you to keep looking into the subject of the R10,000 “bribe” fine, even if the Registrar doesn’t at first reply to your questions. It is really in the public interest that the matter is pursued.

Percy Miller
Bedford Gardens Hospital

As a physician, I understand the sentiments expressed in your articles featuring “greedy doctors”. With regard to the overcharging paediatrician at Life Fourways, however, I have the following comments: (1) a cold or flu in a child can be adequately treated by the family GP, with the added advantage that he knows the family history. Seeing a specialist simply wastes resources; (2) to contain escalating costs, many medical aids (e.g. Discovery and Bonitas) are making the family GP the “gatekeeper” to care and costs.


PIC acted in good faith
In response to your story “The fat end of The Wedge” (nose124) regarding the Public Investment Corporation’s investment of millions belonging to the Government Employees Pension Fund in CBS Properties Ltd, we would like to point out that a rigorous evaluation process was carried out and that we acted in good faith on the information available to us at the time. PIC will not comment nor counter the inaccuracies in the rest of the story as this matter is currently before the courts. PIC is meticulous in the management of public money and we stand by our informed investment decisions. Speculative journalism will not detract us from our mandate.

Albertinah Kekana
Executive Head:
Operations Support Services
Public Investment Corporation

There was nothing “speculative” about our report. We quoted court records, and your own attorney admitting that no “formal” due diligence was done (by PIC) to justify the payment “due to time constraints”.

See lead story in this issue Civil service pensions go down the drain. – Ed.

Don’t know your ass
It would be a pity if noseweek’s reputation for accuracy were marred by your contributors’ inability to distinguish their asses from their arses (“Cheaper than you think”, in Letters, nose124 and the otherwise excellent Country Life article in nose123).

As everyone nose, an ass is a large, hairy, smelly thing which is difficult to control and periodically emits a loud, fearsome, rasping noise. Furthermore, an ass usually has four legs, whereas an arse invariably has none at all.

I hope this helps.

Stephen Pain
By email
As in “Pain in the ...”?Ed.

No one to touch Harold
Harold Strachan’s poignantly beautiful story of Mrs H is one of the most affecting pieces of short writing that I have read in ages.

Strachan is a genius, and anyone who gets him removed from noseweek’s pages is going to get his knees capped.

Bruce MacDonald

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