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In what has been described as one of the worst cases of abuse of public funds, the Northern Province Health Department has paid an international computer company R116-million to install an information technology system it cannot use. The department has now engaged another company to undo IBM's work. The new company, Ethniks, has been awarded a R94-million tender to remove the IBM system and install a brand-new system. In 1995, the department invited tenders for the installation of a system that was meant to co-ordinate information in the province's 43 hospitals. The system was also supposed to be linked to the department. IBM was awarded the contract, and the work was supposed to have been completed in three years. However, Health Department budgetary constraints resulted in the installation of the system in only 23 hospitals in the prescribed time. Although the initial amount stated in the tender documents was R110-million, IBM was paid R116-million, according to Health MEC Sello Moloto. Moloto would not explain why IBM was paid R116-million even though it had installed the system in only 23 of the province's hospitals. He admitted that the system that had been installed by IBM would not be used and was being removed by Ethniks. Moloto, who was not on the provincial executive council in 1996 when the deal was concluded, described the apparent waste of money as sad. IBM executive consultant Dr Biago Longano said the company had been paid R100-million for the main contract, while the additional R6-million was related to computer training and cabling provided by IBM. Longano was adamant that IBM was committed to finishing the work as had been specified in the tender documents. He said the maintenance fee would have to be paid even to the new company. Asked why IBM had failed to complete the work within the contract period of three years, Longano said the previous head of the Health Department had requested IBM to slow down the operation because the department had been experiencing budgetary constraints. (Source: The Star, October 16 2001 at 08:12PM)
A conference attended by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala Monday saw the launch of the first African AIDS centre for training doctors treating AIDS patients with modern antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. The centre at a state university medical school near Kampala is the brainchild of the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa, an organisation founded last year by American, Ugandan and Canadian scientists. According to co-founder Dr. Tom Quinn, the centre will train African doctors on how to best utilize and monitor the use of ARV drugs. It will boast a state-of-the-art laboratory for diagnosing HIV and will provide care for AIDS sufferers, Quinn told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) Monday. Uganda is one of the countries worst affected by the global AIDS epidemic, despite running one of Africa's most aggressive AIDS control programmes. Ugandans comprise 1.2 million of the 25 million Africans infected with the HIV virus. The East African state has lost 800 000 citizens to AIDS since 1983, resulting in one million orphans. The new centre is to be built by the US-based Pfizer Foundation, a division of leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc, which will also provide ARV drugs to the facility. Pfizer will initially provide the drugs free of charge, later at low prices. The facility, which will handle no more than 50 000 patients, is scheduled to open early next year, expanding subsequently to neighbouring states and other locations in Africa. (Source: SAPA-DPA, 11 June 2001)
The treatment of people with HIV and Aids has been given a boost with the announcement last Thursday that Diflucan, a drug which helps Aids patients with opportunistic infections, will be available free in KwaZulu-Natal provincial hospitals within a few weeks. A statement from the national department of health and the pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, said the Northern Cape would be issued with Diflucan this week, with the Free State and Northern Province next in line. In the Western Cape, the drug is available at all academic teaching hospitals, and in Gauteng Diflucan is already in use in academic hospitals and large regional provincial hospitals. The drug has been available in South Africa in terms of a partnership programme concluded at the end of last year by Pfizer and the department of health. The pharmaceutical giant has agreed to supply drugs worth R375-million for HIV and Aids patients attending government hospitals and clinics. (Source: IOL, 12th April 2001)
The Medicines Control Council has given Pfizer the go-ahead to begin the supply of its antifungal agent, fluconazole, to the country as part of an agreement with government.
Pfizer is expected to announce on December 1, World AIDS Day, that it will donate $50 million worth of its antifungal drug Diflucan, which is used by many AIDS patients, to South Africa over two years.