Demand Withdrawal of Suspension of Prof. Ebrahim Variava

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Without warning, Professor Ebrahim Variava was yesterday suspended from his post of the Head of Internal Medicine at the Tshepong public sector hospital in Klerksdorp where he has worked tirelessly for the past twenty years.   This action shocked his clinical, teaching and research colleagues.  His suspension comes at a time of National Disaster when medical professionals, particularly those expert in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with severe medical illness are most required. Over his time at the hospital Prof Variava has built a superb academic department in an underserved province that trains medical students and specialists and also conducts cutting edge research into HIV and TB.  
 
We feel none of the poorly drafted charges bears any relation to Professor Variava’s conduct and dedication to both patient care and academia.
 
Firstly, as a medical specialist  he prioritises excellent  patient care as his most important concern.  His dedication has contributed to  this peripheral hospital becoming a centre of clinical training and research excellence and an integral part of the University of the Witwatersrand.  Prof Variava is a medical activist and speaks out for sick people.  He has raised concerns to the leadership of the North West Department of Health about repeated and lengthy drug stockouts, particularly of frequently used, antibiotics for common infections, and medications required for patients in ICU.  When it appeared that no-one was listening, as recommended by the findings of the Life Esidimeni Inquiry, he raised the issue on other platforms. 
 
Professor Variava is an internationally recognised scholar, having published almost ninety articles in peer reviewed international journals and has conducted multiple studies on the treatment and epidemiology of both HIV, TB and drug resistant TB. He has been integral in providing clinical care for patients with MDR and XDR TB and has sat on advisory panels for the treatment of HIV and drug resistant TB.  In collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand and the North West Department of Health he has ensured that medical students (including those returning from Cuba) and medical specialists are trained in the care of life-threatening and commonly occurring conditions. 
 
In North West Province, almost all COVID-19 patients are admitted to the Internal Medicine Department at Tshepong Hospital. It is extremely worrying that at the precise time when the epidemic is rapidly rising, that the leader of this Department is suspended. The best interests of patients and the hospital, and its community are clearly not served by the suspension of Professor Variava. We call on the Department of Health to withdraw his suspension and urgently consider dialogue to resolve their differences. 
 
ISSUED BY CLINICAL AND RESEARCH COLLEAGUES OF PROFESSOR VARIAVA

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