Covid-19 patient dies neglected, starved in SA govt hospital

Reports of South Africa’s healthcare system struggling under the weight of covid-19 infections during the second wave have been plentiful. Private hospital management teams have been outspoken about the fact that they have had to turn patients away, sending them into the public sector. Government run healthcare is notorious for bad management and patient care. Stories of abuse at the hands of nurses are not uncommon. Public hospitals face shortages of clean linen, gowns and crockery. Former Johannesburg mayor, Herman  Mashaba told BizNews that 40,000 posts in the sector have been frozen by government, while hospitals claim to be under staffed. Photographs of filthy facilities are easily found on social media. These problems existed long before the pandemic but now a Covid-19 patient has given this crisis a human face. Shonisani Lethole took to social media, reaching out to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize about his unbearable circumstances. Four days later he passed away. The desperately ill man had been starved and neglected for days. Even in death, Shonisani was ignored. The hospital took ten hours to move his body. – Melani Nathan

No food for 100 hours: The state of South Africa health care

By Pauline Bax

(Bloomberg) – The death of a 34-year-old man with Covid-19 who wasn’t fed for 100 hours or attended to by a doctor for almost three days has shown the dire state of some of South Africa’s public hospitals.

Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital near Johannesburg was accused of gross negligence by the country’s health ombudsman after an investigation.

“The problems I have at one of your facilities continues, it is becoming unbearable,” the patient, Shonisani Lethole, told Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in a Tweet two days after his admission to the hospital. “And they don’t seem to care.”

His death sparked outrage on social media in a country where there’s a marked gap in the quality of health care afforded to about 15% of citizens who have medical insurance and the rest of the population. Thousands signed a petition to demand justice.

Lied under oath

Lethole was brought to the hospital in June and suffered from stage 4 renal failure after contracting the coronavirus. He wasn’t informed about the test results before his death six days later.

Lethole got no food for 43 hours before he was sedated and didn’t receive a feeding tube for another 57 hours after sedation, according to the investigation. Overall, it took 69 hours before registered medical practitioners assessed his condition. Upon his death, it took another 10 hours to remove his body from the bed.

Read also: Herman Mashaba: Finding jobs for thousands of unemployed doctors, nurses, as hospitals creak at seams

While his parents brought him food it wasn’t delivered to him because cleaners were afraid to enter the ward without personal protective equipment, according to the report.

The ombudsman concluded in a report published Wednesday that the hospital shouldn’t have been used as a Covid-19 facility and provided substandard care. It put patients with and without Covid-19 in the same ward, barely kept records and failed to move bodies to the mortuary timeously.

Authorities should take disciplinary action against the facility’s chief executive officer and some staff, including those who had lied under oath to investigators or tried to mislead the probe, according to the report. Mkhize ordered the investigation last year.

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