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Medical records of three Field’s Hill accident survivors are missing from King Edward Hospital.
The survivors of the horrific Pinetown truck accident were being treated at the hospital for weeks after the September 5 accident that claimed the lives of 24 people.
However, they were told last week that their medical records have disappeared from the hospital, raising suspicions from the angry patients that something is amiss.
The survivors - Zanele Shange, Ntombi Duma and Nomthandazo Gabala - have either been blamed for losing the files or have been told that doctors took the files home.
Shange said her file has been missing since she was discharged. “Whenever I go back to the hospital to inquire about my file they say it was taken by some doctor,” she said.
Shange said she was told last week that a “Dr Madlala” had taken her file home.
“I don’t know how that could be legal. I was never treated by a Dr Madlala,” she said, adding that because of the missing file she could not process her Road Accident Fund (RAF) claim.
Gabala, who suffered injuries to her leg and mouth, said her two X-rays had also disappeared. When she queried this, Gabala, from Ndwedwe, said she was sent from pillar to post.
“This week they just said I was to blame because I didn’t bring them back when I took them with me. I never took the X-rays with me, why would I?” she asked angrily.
The breadwinner of her family, Gabala hasn’t been able to go back to work since the accident. “I haven’t even begun with my RAF claim because I don’t have my medical records,” she said.
An irate Duma said hospital officials showed little empathy when she raised the issue with them. She was told that missing medical records had become a norm at the hospital.
“Both my files are missing and what irritates me most is that the hospital does not take this seriously. They just say it is always the case with the files.”
Karen Janisch, of the Field’s Hill Helping Hands organisation, which is assisting the accident survivors, said she was very worried about the missing files.
Having been in the nursing profession herself, Janisch questioned why patients’ files were allowed to leave the hospital premises.
“I studied at a provincial hospital and currently work in the private sector, and I have never heard of doctors taking patient files home. This is really concerning,” she said.
“The greatest worry though is that when they need to do their RAF claim and their records are “missing”, that would mean they wouldn’t be able to make the claim.
“I can only hope that these records are found soon and if staff are leaving with patient records that this is dealt with in a serious light.”
Janisch has written to the health department, urging officials to address the issue urgently. “These people need to do their RAF claims and have been through a very difficult time.”
She said the organisation looked after 40 families that were involved in the accident or had lost family members.
“We have children as young as 17 months who need food, clothes and any other donations. Most of these people have no one to turn to after the accident robbed them of their breadwinners,” she said.
The Department of Health failed to respond to a media query, but did send a response to Janisch.
“Thank you for bringing the matter of lost files to the Department of Health’s attention. We will give the issue our urgent attention,” read an e-mail from health spokesman Sam Mkhwanazi.
Meanwhile, public sympathy for the truck driver, Sanele May, has remained strong after this week’s court appearance where it emerged that the 23-year-old Swazi national was in the country illegally.
The court also heard that May had been wanted by Durban’s metro police for a previous traffic violation and there was a warrant for his arrest for not paying the fine.
Peach Piche, of the Sanele May Facebook Support Group, said support hadn’t dwindled after the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court heard that May was given a holiday permit to visit the country for 30 days on condition he could not be employed.
“We will support him until the end. Supporting a person means being there for them at their darkest hour,” she said, adding that messages of support were still rolling in.
The Facebook group has more than 12 000 supporters. - Independent on Saturday