Patient dead in Addington toilet only found after 3 days

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Medical staff at Durban’s Addington Hospital have been accused of gross negligence after the body of a patient, who allegedly committed suicide by hanging in a ward’s bathroom, was found only three days later.

According to a Sunday Tribune report, the 25-year-old patient, whose identity is yet to be established, was found hanging in the toilet of surgical ward 3B on Monday. It is alleged that the patient had been missing since the previous Friday.

A well-placed source at the hospital, who asked not to be named, said the dead man was a psychiatric patient who did not want to accept his diagnosis. He was apparently meant to be discharged on Friday, but instead locked himself in the bathroom and used his belt to commit suicide. Other patients were forced to use another bathroom.

The report says when cleaning staff eventually broke down the bathroom door, they made the grim discovery. Police were called to the scene to question nurses and other staff members about the horror discovery. Admission of patients to the surgical ward was put on suspension on the day of the discovery.

The report says police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele confirmed the incident. “A 25-year-old man was found dead on Monday, hanging from a water pipe in a toilet. Point police are investigating an inquest and circumstances around the incident,” said Mbhele.

A doctor at the hospital, who asked not to be named, said there had been much “finger-pointing” among hospital staff this week because nobody wanted to take responsibility for the patient’s death. “Nurses did not notice that the patient had been missing for such a long period of time and that is disturbing. As a doctor, it is not my intention to slander other healthcare professionals, but when there is negligence of this nature occurring someone needs to be held accountable,” said the doctor.

According to the report, the Democratic Alliance’s Dr Imran Keeka said he would ask the chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health to conduct an investigation into the matter. “Hospital management needs to answer why they allowed the bathroom door to be locked for three days without somebody checking,” said Keeka. “We need to question where the nurses and cleaning staff were. Do we have such lazy staff that they cannot conduct proper checks?” asked Keeka.

The KZN Department of Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo, said the matter would be investigated as with all “unusual” deaths.

Sunday Tribune report

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