If President Jacob Zuma’s brief stay in hospital at the weekend was not at the country’s flagship military medical institution “it amounts to a vote of no confidence in the SA Military Health Service (SAHMS)” is the reaction of DA shadow defence and military veterans minister, David Maynier.
It was widely reported the President, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), was admitted to a Pretoria hospital with instructions to rest following “a demanding election and transition to a new administration” according to the Presidency.
Seventy-two-year-old Zuma undergoes two major medical examinations a year, one in January and the second in June.
“For this one the doctors felt he needed to be hospitalised for a thorough check-up following his demanding schedule. All visits are booked in advance,” a statement issued by the Presidency said.
The President, along with Cabinet Ministers and senior government officials, can obtain medical treatment at SAHMS hospitals, particularly 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, where there is a special VIP unit. When multi-million Rand refurbishments are completed at 2 Military Hospital in Cape Town’s Wynberg suburb, it will also be able to accommodate senior elected and appointed government members at a VIP unit.
A reliable source within SAMHS said VIPs such as the President were not under “any obligation” to make use of military medical services.
“It’s their choice and SAMHS cannot stand in the way of any Minister who decides to use private doctors and/or specialists for medical treatment,” he said on condition of anonymity.
The whole question of service at SAHMS facilities, from the three military hospitals through to sickbays at bases across the country as well as operational medicine and allied services on deployments, locally or continentally, is currently under investigation by a task team appointed by Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
The team was originally tasked to look only at the three military hospitals but this has since been extended to the full spectrum of military healthcare.