The Health Department and Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Siviwe Gwarube are engaged in a war of words over the Eastern Cape’s R10 million scooter project.

At the launch of the project last month, Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindisiwa Gomba said that the scooters were meant to transport patients from rural areas to the nearest health facilities.

On Friday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize defended the controversial project after telling Parliament that the scooters did not meet the necessary requirements.

The issue has caused a furore after Gwarube’s comments on social media, that Mkhize and Gomba had made contradictory statements on the matter.

However, Mkhize says the scooters are not a replacement for ambulances but are meant to broaden access to primary health care in the most remote areas of the province.

“It’s not an ambulance. It was just an additional support to help those health workers when the community was struggling to get someone to the clinic or to the hospital. That’s all what it was all about,” says Mkhize.

In a written reply to a Parliamentary question by Gwarube who wanted to know if the scooters were suitable for transporting patients and whether the national Health Department was consulted before the procurement, Mkhize said the Eastern Cape did not consult his department on the specifications of the medical scooters that the province has procured.

He said the scooters, do not meet the criteria for transporting patients and the province has been informed that none of the scooters should be used as ambulances.

The province awarded a King Williamstown company the R10-million tender to procure the 100 scooters.

Last month, Mkhize and Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba unveiled six scooters fitted with a bed on one side, an overhead gazebo with a first aid kit and oxygen on board.

In the video below DA member of parliament Siviwe Gwarube says Mkhize is contradicting himself:

In the video below, the Eastern Cape Health Department reacts to backlash over the scooters: