Decomposing body of patient found in ceiling of Durban hospital

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A partly decomposed body found in the ceiling of the casualty ward of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Phoenix, Durban, on Friday of last week was that of a patient. A Sunday Tribune report says this is according to a worker at the hospital, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, the man was thought to be a mentally ill patient who was missing from the ward since Monday, but this could only be confirmed after a post-mortem because of the partial decomposition.

“The patient went into the ceiling at the casualty ward. “We assume he got stuck there and was unable to move,” she said.

The report says it is alleged the cleaners and nurses were troubled by a strong stench from the linen room. “The smell began to worsen on Thursday, but we did not pay any attention to it because we had no water on that day; so, we assumed it was sick patients. But on Friday, when the security guards looked up at the ceiling and as they tried to follow the smell, they saw droplets of blood. They later broke the ceiling open and found the corpse,” said the source.

The report says there was still some confusion as to how he got into the ceiling. “We don’t understand how he got in there because somebody would have noticed him trying to get in or there would have been a staircase or ladder leading to it. The hospital does not know who he is as his face is disfigured,” said the source.

Spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department Ncumisa Mafunda said in the report that it was shocked and concerned by this “gruesome discovery”. “The matter has been reported to the police, who have begun an investigation. The department would not like to comment further and would like to allow the police investigation process to continue unhindered,” Mafunda said.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said the search and rescue unit was called to the hospital on Friday. “An inquest is under way. It is not known at this stage how the person ended up in the ceiling. It is also not yet clear whether he was a patient at the hospital,” Zwane said.

The report says Shameen Thakur-Rajbansi, a former member of the hospital board, has called for a commission of inquiry into the hospital’s operations. “This hospital has had a lot of problems, from not being properly run by the CEOs to negligence and a lack of security. Only a commission will divulge what is happening, and only then will the hospital find a way forward,” she said.

The report says in October 2017, a 4-year-old girl found a “mummified” body in an equipment room at the hospital. The body was wrapped in white plastic, with only the decomposing toes visible.

Sunday Tribune report

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