Health department denies guilt in Gauteng 6-year-old’s death

While claims were made that a lack of ambulance availability contributed to a boy’s death, the health department tells another story.

The Gauteng Department of Health maintains it cannot be held responsible for the death of a six-year-old boy who did not make it to a higher level of care facility after encountering breathing difficulties.

The department has refuted claims of placing him in the wrong facility.

This comes after DA Gauteng shadow health MEC Jack Bloom alleged that Oreratile Chabalala died as a result of the lack of availability of an ambulance to transfer him ‘speedily’ from Odi Hospital to a specialist hospital.

Bloom said Oreratile suffered breathing problems on October 2 and was admitted to Odi Hospital, in Mabopane, in the north of Pretoria.

“He needed to be transferred to George Mukhari Hospital, but they said they had a bed shortage,” alleged Bloom.

He said when a bed became available there was another predicament. There was no ambulance available to transport him and he died on October 7.

“His devastated family blamed the bed and ambulance shortage for delaying treatment that could have saved his life.”

Bloom said the tragic case of Oreratile highlighted the hospital and ambulance crisis in Gauteng.

He added that there were many instances of gross mismanagement and corruption in the health department.

He said it was scandalous that rural ambulances from areas such as Bronkhorstspruit had to be used to attend to calls from the George Mukhari, Steve Biko, Mamelodi, and Odi hospitals.

“It is unbelievable that an ambulance is sent to pick up a patient 90km away!

“According to the latest Gauteng health department quarterly report, only 42% of priority 1 calls in urban areas were attended to within 30 minutes, instead of the 85% target. In rural areas, ambulances reached 83% of P1 calls within 60 minutes, instead of the 100% target.”

Health department refutes claims

According to the Gauteng Department of Health’s spokesman, Philani Mhlungu, on October 2 Oreratile was admitted to Odi District Hospital after presenting with difficulty breathing and chest pains.

“The department is unfortunately unable to disclose the patient’s diagnosis due to patient-doctor confidentiality.”

Mhlungu said on the fifth day, at around 18:51, Oreratile’s condition worsened.

“This prompted the clinicians to make a call that the child be transferred to a higher level of care.”

He said the call was made because Odi Hospital does not have an intensive care unit (ICU), as it is a district hospital.

The boy was stabilised and put on ventilator support while awaiting to be transferred to another institution.

“A paediatric ICU bed was made available on October 7 at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital (DGMAH) around 14:53.

“An ambulance request to move the patient from Odi to Dr George Mukhari was registered at 15:18.

“A normal ambulance was available to transport the patient to DGMAH at around 16:00, however, due to the critical condition the patient was in, an ICU ambulance with high-care equipment on board had to be dispatched.”

ICU ambulance diverted

Mhlungu said an ICU ambulance that was transporting a critical patient to Mamelodi Hospital was immediately diverted to Odi Hospital at 16:48, and arrived at the district hospital at around 17:15.

“CCTV footage at Odi Hospital and the Gauteng Emergency Communication Centre records confirm this fact.”

He said, however, that due to Oreratile’s unstable condition, the boy went into cardiac arrest.

“Resuscitation was initiated on the patient but unfortunately he died.”

Mhlungu refuted that the lack of ambulances to transport the patient to DGMAH resulted in his death.

“This is far from the truth.

“Odi Emergency Management Services has five intermediate ambulances daily that are sufficient to service emergency calls. The base receives on average 21 emergency calls per shift, which the ambulance ratio is sufficient to respond to on time.”

He said the health department would continue to work with multiple stakeholders to strengthen the capacity of its service platforms and to build a greater consensus.

The department conveyed condolences to the Chabalala family for their loss.

Read original story on

Back to top button