Ambulance staff cleared in pavement death

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Copy of ca p3 scene of death done CAPE ARGUS Shireen Brown and Janap Fester point to the spot in front of Festers house where Susan Cloete was dropped off by an ambulance and died. Cloete was being transported from Groote Schuur Hospital to her home, but was left 2.5km from it. Photo: Angus Scholtz

Cape Town -

No disciplinary action has been taken against ambulance staff who left a grandmother on the side of the road in Athlone where she later died.


Emergency Medical Services (EMS) spokesman Robert Daniels said the Department of Health’s investigation didn’t find any wrongdoing against the staff involved, and that both crews who attended to 60-year-old Susan Cloete had been cleared.

“We have concluded our investigation and we found that although the staff acted within their mandate, EMS regret the manner in which the crew communicated the message to Mrs Cloete as well as the bystanders.

“We have taken steps to educate those crew members involved in this specific incident, and all of our staff members, to be more empathetic with members of the public when communicating these messages,” he said.

He denied allegations that the dying Cloete was dropped at the wrong address, saying she had demanded to be taken to the police station by ambulance staff.

According to Daniels, when a second crew of ambulance staff were called to attend to Cloete, she didn’t want medical treatment, but just wanted to be taken home.

Three weeks ago, Cloete, who lived in Rokeby Road in Lansdowne, died on the pavement in Huxley Road, Athlone, after she was allegedly left there by ambulance staff who transported her from Groote Schuur Hospital where she was treated overnight for tuberculosis. This was about 2.5km from Cloete’s home.

Several calls were made to the police, who turned up only when alerted that she had died.

Shihaam Fester of Athlone, who complained to the police and EMS about Cloete’s ordeal, said: “A very sick woman who they were supposed to care for has died… how much more serious can things get? Is it because this happened to a homeless person… Why are they brushing off such a serious breach by their staff?”

Fester said she received a call from the department during the two-week investigation. Despite the staffer promising to give feedback on the investigation, this hadn’t happened.

“I’m disappointed because the person who phoned me asked me if the ambulance staff performed any medical tests. When I told him that they didn’t touch the woman he said that was clearly a breach of EMS policy and disciplinary measures would be taken against them as they are required to do such checks before offering or refusing treatment. That’s why I’m shocked to hear that they walked free,” she said.

According to Daniels there was nothing wrong with ambulance staff dropping Cloete away from her address, since patients often asked to be delivered to alternative locations.

“If the request is reasonable Healthnet Patient Transport Service would normally oblige,” he said.

Damaris Kiewiets, chairwoman of the Cape Metro Health Forum, said that while Cloete’s death circumstances were sad, it was usual for patients to be dropped at wrong addresses by ambulance staff.

“It happens a lot to the elderly patients because sometimes they forget their home addresses. But in such circumstances ambulance staff are supposed to use the information on the patient’s folder - but they never bother…,” she said.

- Cape Argus


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