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A doctor has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct for signing the death notice of a three-day-old infant whom he had not treated.
The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) gave a warning to Dr Lesiba Khalo, 36, who faced a hefty fine or suspension, after he pleaded guilty to the charges against him.
He acknowledged to the health professions committee that he had acted in an unprofessional manner when he signed the death notice of a three-day-old infant.
Khalo, who had completed his year of community service only three months before the incident, was working at the Mafube District Hospital in Frankfort at the time.
He did not treat the infant, known only as Baby Khanye, and completed the death notification indicating that the cause of death was “natural causes” or “possible sleep apnoea”.
He neglected to have a post-mortem done.
Baby Khanye’s body was exhumed a few months later but the cause of death could not be determined.
“I would not wish that pain on any other family again,” said Khalo.
Appearing on behalf of the council, Thabang Baloyi said the charges against Khalo were very serious and suggested that the sentence be a deterrent to other doctors in future.
However, Baloyi said in mitigation that the committee also had to take into account that Khalo had only been practising for three months at the time and that he had had no guidance at the hospital.
Khalo, who recently completed his MBA in business leadership, told the committee that he had been promoted to a clinical officer at the hospital and had worked there until 2008.
He said he had not attended to Baby Khanye.
A colleague had discharged her with medicine for nasal congestion and a minor upper respiratory tract infection on the day after her birth.
Khanye was brought back the next day and again treated by his colleague. Later that evening the baby was brought back to hospital and was declared dead on arrival.
Khalo said his colleague had told him that the police needed a death certificate for the infant and the police officer said it would cost the family about R5 000 for a post-mortem.
“I interviewed the family about the circumstances surrounding her (Baby Khanye’s) death and it sounded like it might have been sleep apnoea.
“I knew they would not be able to afford the R5 000,” he said.
Khalo said he had not known that his colleague had already issued a death notice with cause of death as “unknown”.
The police officer who told him the family would have to pay for the post-mortem was later charged with defeating the ends of justice.
“I did not know that I had been charged until I testified in the case against the police officer,” he said.
Khalo told the committee he was in the process of getting back into the medical profession.
He had been unemployed since 2008 while completing his studies.
After the hearing Khalo said he was relieved that it was over.
“It has been going on for eight years. Now finally I can move forward and combine my skills to give back to the community,” he said.
Last week Dr Sifiso Mazibuko of Pretoria was also sentenced to a warning for a similar offence after pleading guilty to unprofessional conduct.
March 25, 2004 – Baby Khanye born.
March 26, 2004 – Discharged from hospital by another doctor with nasal congestion and minor upper respiratory tract infection.
March 27, 2004 – Back at hospital for a check-up at about 5pm.
March 27, 2004 – Brought back to hospital at about 11pm and declared dead on arrival.