Monkeys feed themselves at one of the waste bins at the Goerge Mokhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa. Picture: Phill Magakoe

Monkeys who steal patients’ food and medicine from Wentworth Hospital in KZN may be in grave danger of contracting disease, especially tuberculosis.

Monkey Helpline’s Steve Smit said staff had seen media reports this week that detailed the “hairy smash-and-grab gang” at the hospital, where a patient reportedly said monkeys knew the times food was served in the hospital and timed their attacks accordingly.

Smit said the problems with monkeys at the hospital had been going on for a long time. He challenged Wentworth’s chief operating officer, Dr Suriya Kader, for saying “they had tried to get help, but that nobody had come forward and we simply don’t know how to deal with them”.

Smit said Monkey Helpline had met Kader and senior management from the hospital on a number of occasions and had put forward solutions.

“The monkeys are a threat after eating leftovers from sick people. In the TB ward, there are big, open windows and we have been told by former patients that the monkeys are fed by patients in their beds.

“It is very dangerous for the monkeys as it puts them at high risk of contracting all sorts of sickness from leftover food. Even a cold sore can give a monkey the herpes virus and it will die,” said Smit.

There is also the possibility of illness spreading through the troop.

With regard to stealing patients’ medicine, Smit admitted staff had attended instances where monkeys stole medication. “Sometimes they fall off roofs or lie in the road and go to sleep. They are very quick to taste anything and some medicines smell good, especially children’s medicines.”

He said that they had done a number of monkey rescues at the hospital and the key solutions put forward to the hospital’s management included screening windows, implementing a feeding station to stop patients feeding the monkeys and to reduce the queues of patients at the tuck shop.

“We have strict guidelines on how to deal with monkeys. We have sat in meetings and made suggestions, but they (hospital staff) have not actioned anything. They said they did not have the funding to implement measures,” said Smit.

Kader said she would respond on the issue next week. - Sunday Independent