Controversial acting DG for Health steps aside for new man

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Acting director-general of Health, Dr Anban Pillay, leaves under a cloud of controversy, to be replaced on 1 June by a new DG who has also had his share of controversy, writes MedicalBrief.

The new DG, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, was appointed a week ago. Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize expressed appreciation to Dr Pillay.

Pillay was recently been caught up in a storm involving Medical Research Council (SAMRC) president Professor Glenda Gray, who was critical of the government’s lockdown rules. He called her a liar and demanded that SAMRC investigate her, for which he was widely criticised by the medical establishment.

The Times reports that Pillay requested in December 2019 to take early retirement in order to join the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) as country director for South Africa and senior advisor on universal health coverage. The initiative began working with the South African government in 2003 and has operated in the country since 2008.

According to a Business Day report, e spent five years working under former KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, who persecuted doctors determined to provide HIV-positive pregnant women with medication to protect their babies from the virus. 

Daily Maverick reported that Buthelezi’s earlier appointment to the SA National Aids Council had also surprised activists who are concerned about his involvement in the roll-out of an unsafe circumcision device (the Tara Klamp) in Kwazulu-Natal and the “persecution” of doctors at Manguzi Hospital in 2008. 

Full earlier report on Buthelezi in MedicalBrief

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