THE Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) has opted to incur hefty costs to verify the health status of suspended chief executive officer Futho Hoohlo.
Mr Hoohlo contracted the novel corona virus in December 2020 and has since then remained on chronic illness medical treatment for acute post Covid-19 syndrome.
In doubt, the WASCO Board appointed its own medical practitioner seeking “to determine the authenticity” of Hoohlo’s positive results claims after his failure to attend several disciplinary hearings over his misconduct charges that culminated in his 8 April 2021 suspension from work to date.
The on-going suspension is Mr Hoohlo’s second after his November 2020 suspension, which was nullified by the courts since his on-going battle with the Board started.
In a 1 July 2021 correspondence, WASCO’s Board chairperson Chabeli Ramolise informed Mr Hoohlo of the medical appointment arranged on his behalf at the Bloemfontein Medi Clinic for Wednesday 7th July, which he duly honored and was subsequently hospitalized.
“Following your sick leave notes that give an impression of your ill condition, the Board in its sitting resolved to the following:
“To invoke section 27. 7(b) of the Human Resource Regulations 2017 read with section 123 (5) of the Labour Code Order of 1992 as amended, which permits the employer to require an employee who is purportedly ill and given sick leave extending beyond six working days, to be examined by a registered medical practitioner;
“Find and make an appointment for you with a doctor in South Africa;
“All expenses of the examination and travel be borne by WASCO,” Mr Ramolise said in the letter titled Re-examination by a medical practitioner of WASCO’s choice seen by this publication.
Mr Ramolise continued: “You are hereby informed that following the meeting a search for a doctor was done, and an appointment secured. Your scheduled appointment is on Wednesday 7 July 2021, at 10AM at Bloemfontein Medi Clinic.
“As a prerequisite to travel to South Africa you will have to undergo a Covid-19 test. You are therefore required to go for testing on Monday 5 July 2021 at 9AM at Target Pathology Laboratories at Maseru Avani, payment will be made by the company.”
Following his re-examination as per the Biard’s request, Dr Loube de Ridder, one of the doctors who attended to Mr Hoohlo at Bloemfontein Medi Clinic decided to admit him.
“For admission please,” Dr de Ridder wrote in a note to one of his partners Dr Khutšoane.
“I was admitted to Bloemfontein Medi Clinic on 7 July 2021. I am still here and it is the doctors who will determine when to release me.”
A different 1 July 2021 medical examination by Dr Lerato Dikobe-Kalane from the Dr Dikobe and Associates in South Africa, indicated Mr Hoohlo is suffering from a neurocognitive impairment and anxiety disorder as a result of contracting Covid-19.
Dr Dikobe- Kalane subsequently gave him a two-week sick note ending 16 July this year.
In his on-going court battle with the WASCO Board, Mr Hoohlo on Tuesday this week obtained an interim Labour Court order stopping it from subjecting him to a Wednesday disciplinary hearing until his 23 June 2021 urgent application over his suspension and restoration of his docked June 2021 salary has been finalized .
The WASCO Board and WASCO are the first and second respondents respectively in the application.
“It is ordered that:
“The rule nisi is issued returnable on the 12 July, 2021 calling upon the respondents to show cause why, if any, why;
“The 1st and 2nd respondents shall be interdicted and/or shall be restrained from holding disciplinary hearing against applicant on 6th July 2021 to be held at 09.00 AM pending finalization of this matter,” Justice Makoanyane Keta said in his interim ruling.
The ruling was in response to the following letter from the WASCO board:
“I am aware that your sick leave dated 11thJune 2021 comes to an end on 5th July 2021 and you are accordingly advised that the disciplinary hearing against you will proceed on 6th July 2021, at 9AM, WASCO boardroom.
“Your appointment to see a medical practitioner appointed by WASCO to determine the authenticity of your infirmity or illness still stands, particularly now that you claim to have a chronic illness,” Mr Ramolise said in the letter titled: Notice to a disciplinary hearing dated 2nd July 2021.
In an earlier interim by justice Keta issued on 23 June 2021, he ordered WASCO to restore Mr Hoohlo’s docked salary after his continued inability to attend disciplinary hearings due to ill health.
WASCO is yet to comply with the court’s interim ruling in restoring Mr Hoohlo’s full salary. The case is scheduled to continue tomorrow (Monday) in the Labour Court.
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