The national health department has broken its silence on the alleged birth of decuplets, describing Independent Media's allegations as “a journalistic error”. Gauteng Health is to take legal action against the company, as well as Piet Rampedi, editor of the Pretoria News, who “broke” the fake story.
“It cannot be that 10 or eight babies are born and that no evidence of their whereabouts or existence can be established,” said the department, after Independent Media became first to report on the apparent birth of the decuplets last week – also claiming that government at both national and provincial levels were involved in a cover-up of the babies' births.
A TimesLIVE report said that the national health department noted “with dismay and great disappointment” the claims by Independent Media, particularly those against the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
“This relates to successive stories published by the Independent Media group that Gosiame Sithole gave birth to decuplets at the hospital a week ago. Mysteriously, the location of the infants was never established,” the statement read.
“We have taken these allegations made against government and healthcare professionals very seriously. The results of our preliminary investigation once again confirmed that there were no decuplets in the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, as well that there was no way that Tshwane District Hospital, that is not even capacitated to deliver twins, can deliver 10 babies.
“Clinicians at both the Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Tshwane District Hospital have confirmed that there is no record of delivery of the decuplets in any of the public health facilities in Gauteng. It is not clear where the delivery had happened.”
The department said that given the magnitude of the allegations, it had invited Independent Media, which has insinuated wrongdoing on the part of health professionals and government, "to assist Ms Sithole to pursue a complaint with the health ombudsman for the alleged mistreatment of the patient at any health facility".
A separate report in News24 said that Sithole had undergone psychiatric evaluation earlier last week, and that the babies' alleged father, Teboho Tsotetsi, had declared in a family statement that he did not believe she had ever given birth to decuplets.
Gauteng Health’s statement, released on Wednesday (23 June) reads:
Following reports published by the Independent Media group about a Gauteng woman having given birth to decuplets on Monday, 7 June 2021, the Gauteng Provincial Government conducted a thorough check with all hospitals in the province to establish the veracity or otherwise of reports.
None of the hospitals in the province, public and private, had any records of such births at their facilities.
On 17 June 2021, the Pretoria News published a report based on a statement made by the Independent Media alleging that Gosiame Sithole gave birth to decuplets at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital, and that government was trying to cover up medical negligence.
These allegations are false, unsubstantiated and only serve to tarnish the good reputation of Steve Biko Academic Hospital and the Gauteng Provincial Government.
Social workers attached to the Gauteng Department of Social Development made contact with Ms Sithole to establish her whereabouts to determine how the department could provide any assistance and care for her and her children. The social workers became concerned with Ms Sithole's state of health and arranged for her admission at Tembisa Hospital for observation.
Ms Sithole was admitted to Tembisa hospital on 18 June 2021, and various medical tests were conducted on her to determine her state of health. Initially, she was meant to be kept at the hospital for 72 hours, which lapsed on Tuesday, 22 June 2021. Upon completing their preliminary examination on Monday, 21 June 2021, her doctors recommended that she be kept at the hospital for a further 7 days for further observation, in accordance with the Mental Healthcare Act.
It has now been established by medical practitioners that Ms Sithole did not give birth to any babies in recent times. It has also been established that she was not pregnant in recent times.
The Gauteng Provincial Government will continue to give medical, psychological and social support to Ms Sithole and provide any counselling she might require.
The Gauteng Provincial Government is deeply concerned by the conduct of the Independent Media, particularly the Editor of the Pretoria News, Mr Piet Rampedi.
The Provincial government has instructed the State Attorney to institute legal action against Mr Rampedi and the Independent Group.