Hospital staff could face charges over patient’s death

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Frere Hospital staff who treated an assault victim who later died from his injuries could be prosecuted for gross negligence after a magistrate ordered transcripts of the murder trial be forwarded to the Director for Public Prosecution for a decision, says a Daily Dispatch report.

The man who assaulted the victim, Daniel Dyani, 60, was convicted on a lesser charge of culpable homicide last month. According to the report, East London magistrate Ignatius Kitching in his ruling said the charge of murder against Dyani could not stand “because of gross negligence of hospital staff”. Kitching has appealed to the DPP in Grahamstown to listen to trial transcripts to see if criminal charges should be brought against staff who treated 37-year-old Bonke Nogqane.

Dyani assaulted Nogqane with a wooden object on 25 August, 2012 in Duncan Village. The state called witness Nelson Tefu to the stand, who testified that Dyani had assaulted Nogqane over money owed to him and theft. He told the court the deceased was assaulted numerous times with what appeared to be a leg of a kitchen table, on the head, upper body and arm. Kitching in his ruling said: “The victim had problem breathing and Nelson (Tefu) dropped him back in his room and put him in his bed.

“Nelson inquired the next day and Nogqane said he was in pain. Nogqane was later taken to hospital where he died two days afterwards.

“Dr Zondi, our local district pathologist, testified and enlightened the court on what he thought was the cause of death of the deceased. He also obtained the hospital file of the deceased, since he spent two to three days in the hospital before he passed away,” Kitching said.

“Dr Zondi explained that various blood tests were performed on the deceased during his hospitalisation (and) those blood results were soon available and contained crucial information regarding the necessary and follow-up treatment of the deceased. From the hospital file, Dr Zondi concluded that those test results were either not brought to the attention of the doctors who were on duty and treating the deceased or were just ignored. The basic monitoring of the [patient] according to Dr Zondi was also grossly ignored or never acted upon.”

Kitching said the “gradual and deteriorating demise of the deceased should have been foreseen. It would have been relatively easy to administer preventative treatment under those circumstances. Dr Zondi went on further to state that the death of the deceased could have been easily prevented had the basic medical care been exercised and applied.

“There were a number of vital warning signs that should have been acted upon. None of that happened,” he said.

Kitching said Zondi concluded that the nature of the assault on the deceased caused the start of his deteriorating physical condition.

Dyani’s Legal Aid attorney, Mkhuseli Nosilela argued that he should not be found guilty on a charge of murder because of the hospital’s negligence.

Kitching said he was satisfied that Dyani did not have intention to kill Nogqane. “Despite the gross negligence of the hospital in this instance, the court is still satisfied that he (Dyani) must be held responsible for the death of the deceased. He is therefore found guilty of culpable homicide and not murder.”

Dyani was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment wholly suspended for four years.

Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo is quoted in the report as saying: “The judgment needs to be studied and the department is yet to consider issues surrounding this matter and the pathology report relied upon.”

The report says comment from National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tshepo Ndwalaza was not received at the time of writing.

Daily Dispatch report

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