Mpumalanga Health sued after psychiatric patient dies in accident

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Mpumalanga woman has instituted a R1m damages claim against the health minister and Mpumalanga Health MEC after her son, a psychiatric patient, was hit and killed by a truck at the gates of KwaMhlanga Hospital. The Citizen reports that Johanna Masilela blames health authorities for the death of her son, Johannes Jiyani, claiming they had been negligent.

The report says Masilela called an ambulance to take her son to hospital after he cut himself with a knife. He had been a psychiatric patient for a number of years and was on a number of medications. Jiyani was placed on a drip on his arrival but was left sitting in the waiting room in the casualty department while waiting for a bed in one of the wards.

His niece, who accompanied him to hospital, had told the casualty staff of her uncle’s mental condition several times before leaving him in their hands. When she returned later that afternoon expecting to see her uncle in a hospital ward, she was told he had absconded and was hit by a truck at the hospital gates. He had died as a result of his injuries and was already in the mortuary.

A clinical psychologist said in a report that Masilela has not been able to come to terms with her son’s death. She was closer to him than to her other children and had relied on him greatly. She said it was clear Masilela was suffering from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder which gave rise to a major depressive disorder. She felt sad, empty and depressed most of the time, said the psychologist, and had markedly diminished interest in almost all activities, suffered from a loss of energy and fatigue, battled to concentrate and had recurrent thoughts of death.

According to the report, Masilela said in court papers the hospital staff had been negligent by failing to confine her son to a mental ward, restraining him or preventing him from leaving the hospital undetected. They, she said, failed to ensure that safety precautions were taken for mentally incapacitated patients, thereby placing the public and her son’s life at risk and also failed to maintain proper access control at the main gate.

Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and health MEC Sasekani Manzini insisted her son’s death was not caused by hospital staff but by a car accident for which they could not be held liable.

The report says Masilela’s attorney, Sello Makhafola, had to obtain a court order forcing health authorities in Mpumalanga to discover relevant documents. Makhafola accused the department of deliberately delaying finalisation of the claim.

The Citizen report

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