Psychiatric patient goes on stabbing spree

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ST p5main Psychi Bara

Ihsaan Haffejee

UNPREDICTABLE: The psychiatric ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, where a patient stabbed six people. Picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

SHAUN SMILLIE and VUYO MKIZE

shaun.smillie@inl.co.za vuyo.mkhize@inl.co.za

WHEN he was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, he was considered non-aggressive – but then something sent him on a stabbing spree.

Five patients and a doctor were injured, and now police plan to charge the attacker with assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Reacting to the attack, the Junior Doctors Association of SA (Judasa) said the increase in assaults on junior doctors was a major concern.

The hospital’s CEO, Johanna More, said the man had been admitted on Saturday for observation and that he had slept most of that day.

But that night the 27-year-old patient stole a pair of suturing scissors from a trolley and hid them.

“Something triggered him, and he got up and started stabbing (other patients),” said More.

The man stabbed five patients before an intern, who at the time was putting up a drip, intervened.

“She was stabbed in the hand,” said More.

The intern’s wound was stitched and she was sent home to recuperate.

Yesterday, she was admitted to Netcare Milpark Hospital for surgery so that the wound could be sutured.

“It is only after this that we will know the extent of the injury,” said More.

The other patients received superficial wounds that required a few stitches.

More said there was no security in the unit at the time because the ward was considered low risk.

“We can’t place security at every door,” she said, adding that if the patient had exhibited signs of aggression, he would have been placed in a separate ward, with a holding facility, where he would have been held for 72 hours.

“He would have been treated differently, we would have sedated him,” More said.

The attacker had since been sent to Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital, and those who were attacked had been given trauma counselling, she said.

Dr Mathabo Hlahlane of Judasa said they were concerned. “In previous years, a junior female doctor was raped by an unknown assailant. Last year, a junior doctor was stabbed in Mpumalanga and two doctors were hijacked outside a hospital in Pretoria… Our concern is that these cases of assault are on the increase.

“We work very odd hours, and sometimes we work 36 hours (at a stretch). We have to walk around dark passages and often the premises in hospitals aren’t safe,” said Hlahlane.

She added that security measures needed to be beefed up at hospitals as people coming into them were sometimes not adequately searched and could bring dangerous objects onto the premises.

Jack Bloom, the DA’s Gauteng spokesman on health, said security at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Academic Hospital was a problem.

“Patients and staff don’t feel safe at Bara. We get people approaching us about it all the time and they are not happy,” he said, adding that R20 million was spent on security at the hospital annually.

Bloom questioned whether correct procedures had been followed.

“There shouldn’t have been anything around that could be used as a weapon. There are just so many unanswered questions,” he said.

The police were planning to question the intern about the incident.

“We plan to give her time as she is still dealing with the trauma, said police spokeswoman Captain Nondumiso Matlou-Mteto.


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