News | Opinion
There is no worse nightmare for the family of a critically ill patient to find he or she has died – because medical personnel switched off the life-support system without their permission or knowledge.
Yet, this is what the relatives of Lloyd Kacheche faced last month when they found out he had died at Tembisa Hospital after life support was terminated.
The incident was revealed this week as the Gauteng health department was dealing with another complaint about alleged patient abandonment at the same hospital.
ALSO READ: Shonisani Lethole’s severe Covid-19 infection worsened by negligence, says heath ombud
Shonisani Lethole’s body was already in rigor mortis when it was found in the hospital in June last year, just days after he tweeted a plea for assistance to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize about the conditions at the hospital.
Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, who headed an investigation into the death of Lethole, heard evidence that the man was deprived of food on two occasions, totalling more than 100 hours.
The stories are horrifying because they show a callous disregard for patients by staff at the hospital – something which cannot be blamed on the stress induced by the tsunami of Covid-19 patients all health institutions have had to cope with in the past year.
Passing on the report on the death of Lethole, Makgoba explained that the healthcare system was made up of infrastructure, policies and people.
“Our policies are very good,” he said. “Our infrastructure I would categorise as medium.”
READ MORE: ‘Neglected’ Shonisani Lethole’s body was found in ‘rigor-mortis’ stage – health ombud
But his most telling words were: “Our biggest elephant in the room is, however, the people in the healthcare system.”
He said substandard service by some people working in healthcare was a serious problem and needed to be addressed.
“We need to create a new culture of training medical staff.”
We understand that health work is badly paid and emotionally draining. But hospital staff must never turn their backs on empathy.
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