Tuesday, 9 August, 2022
HomeNews UpdateMitchells Plain Hospital's alleged negligence blamed for relatives’ deaths

Mitchells Plain Hospital's alleged negligence blamed for relatives’ deaths

Mitchells Plain District Hospital in Cape Town has come under fire from patients’ families, being accused of inhumane treatment and behaviour, and a lack of compassion for both patients and their relatives.

Three Western Cape families have blamed staff negligence at the hospital for their relatives’ deaths, reports News24.

Janine Kayser’s diabetic father Rodney de Bruyn was admitted to the hospital because of a toe infection that was not healing, and on arrival, doctors “decided immediately his leg had to be amputated”. His other leg had already been previously amputated

“On the day of the surgery, we had to search for him, because no one knew where he was,” said his daughter, “and when we eventually found him, there was a terrible stench coming from him.

“He had no water to drink, no bell to ring for assistance, and smelt of faeces. He told us that two hours after his surgery, he had soiled himself and asked the nurse for assistance to clean himself up.

“She told him he needed to clean himself because he had two hands. How inhumane and cruel is that? He was a double amputee,” she said.

When Kayser asked a ward nurse why they hadn’t helped clean her father, she was told De Bruyn had two hands and could wash himself.

"We also noticed there was untouched food on his bedside pedestal. He obviously wasn’t eating, so my mother phoned a doctor who gave her permission to buy a supplement nutritional drink for him. They said they could not prescribe a diet for him since he was diabetic and the dietician was not at work.”

While they were at her dad’s bedside, added Kayser, they saw a group of doctors doing their rounds so she went to speak to them.

“A doctor then, shockingly, told us my dad was terminally ill. Not once in the many days he had been lying there had anyone told us he was terminally ill. Absolutely nothing was communicated to us. The doctor said he had suffered a heart attack post-surgery, and they discovered he had a bleeding ulcer and his organs were failing. I was in shock because had I not approached this doctor, I don't think anyone would’ve told us this,” she said.

“We felt the hospital was doing minimal work with my dad, paying him no attention because, according to them, he was already dying. We are disgusted with how he was treated, terminal or not. At this stage, we have many questions that need answers.”

Her father later died in hospital, and the family was not informed. They only learnt he had died when they went for their daily visit.

De Bruyn had been in hospital for 14 days before his death.

“We have approached the Department of Health with our complaints as we are not satisfied with the inhumane way he was treated during his final days. Do they just let patients die when they are terminally ill? I am very angry with the hospital,” she said.

Kayser said an investigation was launched, but the family was unhappy with the outcome.

“About three weeks ago, we got an outcome of the investigation, which reeked of a cover-up. We believe my father died because of negligence,” she said.

“According to the hospital's investigations, there was no negligence on their side. Management did concede they could've done some things better, like exploring other feeding options for him, and the care he received could've also been done better, they said.”

In a separate case, David Leetjer said his family had been left traumatised by how his mother was treated at the same hospital.

“She was admitted with stomach problems. At the ICU, we saw some patients were lying on the floor. My mom was put on to a drip but almost immediately picked up an infection. I believe it was a result of the (poor) hygiene in the ward.”

He said without their knowledge, his mother Marianne was transferred to Groote Schuur Hospital for hand surgery after it was infected by the drip.

“We had to search the hospital for her because no one could point us in the right direction. When we found her, she had no food and water, and was sitting on a hard chair with no blankets,” said Leetjer.

“Communication between doctors, patients and family is crucial, and this doesn’t seem to be happening at the hospital. Another concern is security guards acting as if they are medical staff. Security personnel are not medical people. They want to tell you what the diagnosis is for the patient and which ward the patient must go to. Security should be doing security work and stop giving the public hassles.”

His mother was transferred back to Mitchells Plain, and died after 21 days in hospital.

Leetjer said: “Before she died we laid numerous complaints with the hospital manager, who was never available. I really hope the higher powers at the Department of Health do some serious interventions at hospitals in the Cape Flats areas because hospitals are supposed to be safe spaces for people.”

Stanley Jacobs said when his mum Sophia was taken to the hospital, the family was disgusted with how the ambulance staff manhandled her when putting her into their vehicle. At the hospital things weren’t any better.

“The staff were incredibly rude. No water was provided for my mom; we had to give it to her. Food wasn't even provided. Staff would often ask us if we were doctors and what we were doing in the ward. My mom was going through hell and didn't deserve to be treated this way,” he said.

It got worse. “When my mom died, we were chased out of the ward like dogs. We couldn’t grieve as a family in the room with her where she died,” he said.

Jacobs says the staff treated them without empathy.

“We were bereaved, but spoken to as if we didn’t matter. We just needed to know what preparations were needed for the funeral, but were chased out and told they would call us. It was an unpleasant experience,” he said.

The Western Cape Health Department said the claims were an attempt to “tarnish the hospital’s good name”. The department said it provided three meals a day, including water, to patients.

“The hospital, and all hospitals in the province, follow a standard procedure when there is any death. The doctor completes the death notification and the family is notified. Further processes are then explained to them, which include the keeping of the deceased in the mortuary until their appointed undertaker comes to collect the remains," said the department’s spokesperson Mark van der Heever.

“The hospital has regular staff meetings where issues of concern are raised and addressed. These meetings are attended by all staff, including the quality assurance and patient liaison division. They bring issues relating to client experience to the management’s attention and collective resolutions are explored,” he said. The department also offered several courses aimed at client experience improvement.

Regarding security guards, Van der Heever said: “They do not have any clinical function but are responsible for ensuring the safety and security of staff and patients. Clients are encouraged to bring any operation of a security guard other than the safety and security function to the attention of the relevant unit manager or the quality assurance and client liaison officer.”


News24 article – ‘Security guards aren’t medical staff’: Families blame deaths on negligence at Mitchells Plain hospital (Open access)


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