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A Khayelitsha nurse was allegedly so drunk at work that she ordered a sickly patient to stand while undergoing a test for high blood pressure, before chasing another patient out of the nurses’ room.
Mabhelandile Mankayi, who has lodged a complaint with the management of the Khayelitsha Community Health Centre (CHC), said he watched “in awe and with disbelief” as a night-shift nurse, who reeked of alcohol, started to rant and became abusive towards him and his mother Caroline.
Mankayi had taken his mother to the hospital’s trauma unit on a Sunday night after she fell ill with chest and abdominal pains that made it difficult for her to stand or walk.
He said everything went well until they got into the triage room, where the abusive nurse was performing screening tests.
“She (the nurse) became so angry so suddenly, it felt unreal… I kept asking myself what must have got her in this foul mood. As I took a closer look, I realised she was drunk. She smelt of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes.”
And it’s not the first time a nurse has been reported drunk on duty at the Khayelitsha CHC.
Mark van der Heever, spokesman for the provincial health department, said similar incidents had been recorded, and two staff members had been dismissed in the past three years.
“One was dismissed for abusive behaviour towards a client and one for unprofessional conduct,” he said.
Van der Heever said the department was investigating the latest incident reported to the facility.
The incident comes less than a year after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that some of the province’s nurses were coming to work drunk. After a lengthy investigation into nurses’ conduct at the Gugulethu CHC, Madonsela ordered the department to clean up its act – and to immediately improve conditions at the clinic, such as cleanliness and staff conduct.
Mankayi said the on-duty nurse had “demanded to know what was wrong with my mother”.
“I told her she was sick and that my mother was going to explain to her what was wrong, but she couldn’t even wait for me to finish the sentence. She shouted: ‘I asked you what is wrong with your mother… don’t tell me that she is sick’. As if that was not enough, the nurse stopped me from taking a chair for my mother, demanding that she stand while she was performing the blood pressure test.”
The nurse’s colleague, who was in the same room, took over and performed the blood pressure test instead.
Mankayi said he called a security guard to witness the incident. When another patient intervened during the tirade, the allegedly drunk nurse had chased her out of the room and told her to “shut up as this has nothing to do with you”.
Mankayi, whose mother had since been admitted and was later transferred to Tygerberg Hospital with kidney failure, said he was “shocked at how unprofessional the nurse was”.