Delays in cancelling EC air ambulance tender further deprives residents of vital service

Issued by Jane Cowley, MPL
Shadow MEC for Health

The Eastern Cape Health Department has finally admitted defeat and announced that they have cancelled the controversial Aeromedical tender and advised that they will be putting out a new call for service providers.

The Democratic Alliance has been relentless in its opposition to this contract as we smelt a rat right from the start. This is a victory for common sense.

Sadly, this means that Eastern Cape residents will be deprived of an air ambulance service until at least June, which is when the new contract is expected to come into effect.

The DA is calling on the Health Department to urgently ensure that an interim air ambulance service is in place over the Easter holidays, notorious for high numbers of car and bus accidents.

Leli Investments, in a joint venture with Black Eagle, was awarded the contract in October 2020 through a controversial tender that saw repeated challenges in court.

In July last year, a court interdict against Leli Investments was set aside, and they were to start operating, but not a single aircraft or helicopter has left the ground to assist critically ill or injured patients in the province.

Despite the company’s claims in court that they were ready and able to begin operations immediately, this was not the case. It was patently clear then that they never had the requisite capacity or skills to render the aeromedical service.

Instead of desperately trying to justify the appointment of Leli Investments, Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth should have terminated the contract when it was apparent that the company was incapable of fulfilling its mandate.

These delays have effectively deprived the residents of the Eastern Cape of live-saving services for an entire year!

This raises serious questions:

Why did the Bid Adjudication Committee favour Leli Investments if they were clearly not functional? Was there bias in the adjudication process?

What has awarding a contract without merit cost us in lives that may have been saved had a functional company been rendering the service?

The entire air ambulance contract debacle smacks of “contracts for cronies”.

I will write to MEC Meth to thank her for terminating the contract and call on her to ensure that an interim air ambulance service is in place over the Easter holidays.

I will also caution her that the Bid Adjudication and Bid Evaluation Committees, who are responsible for awarding such contracts, must always put the lives and wellbeing of our citizens at the centre of all their deliberations.

One day it may just be one of their family members who require an emergency airlift to stay alive.