Cancer patients missed out on potentially life-saving treatment after healthcare workers sold their medications on the black market, it has been alleged.
Staff at a hospital in North Macedonia’s capital Skopje were blasted as ‘murderers’ during a demonstration outside the government quarters yesterday.
Attending were several people who said their relatives had died after being given placebos instead of proper chemotherapy because the drugs had been stolen.
‘My mother had breast cancer and her condition worsened a week after she was admitted to the clinic,’ one young man told the crowd.
‘Unfortunately, she did not survive.’
The man, who did not give his name, described the hospital’s alleged behavior as ‘monstrous’.
Protesters covered their hands in red paint, signifying that those responsible have blood on their hands.
Eggs were hurled at the government building, and the crowd called for the urgent resignation of North Macedonia’s health minister and the hospital management.
Placards read ‘Killers for profit’ and ‘How many more deaths?’.
The scandal broke earlier this year after CCTV footage emerged showing a nurse allegedly smuggling cancer drugs out of the oncology building. They were later arrested.
A pre-investigation procedure was finally opened almost four months later, after Focus first reported about misuse of cancer medications.
On Friday, police raided the hospital and the homes of two staff members, seizing documents, computers and data drives.
But no further arrests were made and no charges have been filed.
Health minister Fatmir Mexhiti and hospital director Violeta Klisarova stressed that ‘patients are safe and there is no manipulation with the therapy’.
Klisarova said that since the nurse’s arrest protocols have been revised and access to cancer drugs has been restricted.
Meanwhile, Mexhiti vowed to do ‘everything in my power to clear up this case’.
Their promises fell on deaf ears as the public’s trust in health officials continues to decline.
President Stevo Pendarovski described the claims as ‘shocking and discussing’, adding that it was ‘high time to end the culture of impunity for serious crimes.
He said in a statement: ‘It is high time that the system confirms we are capable of dealing with severe forms of organized crime and corruption, and of ending the culture of impunity for serious violations of the laws.’
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