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Johannesburg - The South African Society of Psychiatry (SASOP) on Thursday said it has noted instances of abuse of patients’ rights and failure to execute duty care at the Tower Hospital in the Eastern Cape.

SASOP together with representatives of its SASOP Eastern Cape structure, the Treatment Action Campaign, and members of the South African Federation of Mental Health participated in a visit to the hospital on March 6.

SASOP president, Bernard Janse van Rensburg, compiled a report after the visit which revealed that significant problems existed for some time in terms of the running of the hospital.

“Although management identified difficulties in the smooth running of the institution, no effective strategies have ever been employed to address or solve the challenges and on at least two occasions the problems were of such nature that it required the intervention of the Eastern Cape Department of Health," said Jansen van Rensburg.

Janse van Rensburg said accurate record-keeping and proper documentation is a considerable challenge at Tower Hospital.

“Patient and death records, death notification, as well as the manner and capacity of secluding patients at this facility has been infringing on patients’ human rights,” he said.

“Significant discrepancies and inaccuracies exist about the hospital’s available information on the number and nature of deaths of inpatients that have occurred over the last five to eight years.  This has led to important records not being recorded or stored properly and reported instances where recording of information relating to deaths or patient care has been done retrospectively instead of at the point of occurrence.

“It is unclear whether this was done as an attempt to give an impression of lower death rates or better care. What is clearer is the fact that the system of record keeping and storing of important records has not been done effectively over many years and has left the care of patients at risk," he said.

Janse van Rensburg's report includes 15 recommendations across policy and procedure, food and clothing, physical health of patients, death registration and notification and advocacy. 

The findings along with recommendations have been shared with the Eastern Cape Department of Health who in their own capacity employed a task team to investigate the incidences further at Tower Hospital.

African News Agency/ANA