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Boy, 6, struggling to breathe dies due to shortage of hospital beds, ambulance

Oreratile Chabalala, 6, an Ontlametse Phalatse Primary School Grade 1 leaner, has died. Picture: Supplied

Oreratile Chabalala, 6, an Ontlametse Phalatse Primary School Grade 1 leaner, has died. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 11, 2023


Pretoria - Six-year-old Oreratile Chabalala’s family are wondering whether their child would still be alive if the ambulance had arrived earlier, or if a bed to accommodate him at George Mukhari Academic Hospital had been secured earlier.

Oreratile, a Grade 1 learner at Ontlametse Phalatse Primary School in Hebron, Pretoria, succumbed to his illness on Saturday after being sent from pillar to post by the Gauteng health services.

Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, his uncle and elder brother to the deceased’s father, Phetolo Nakana, said Oreratile’s family were devastated because there was a possibility their child would still be alive.

According to Nakana, Oreratile was taken to Odi Hospital in Mabopane after he began struggling to breathe on October 2.

Recognising the severity of his condition, Odi Hospital transferred him to George Mukhari Hospital for specialised care. However, in a cruel twist of fate, it emerged that the hospital he was to be transferred to did not have enough beds to accommodate him.

“This, unfortunately, caused unfortunate delays in his treatment, and after a series of anxious hours, George Mukhari Hospital finally confirmed bed availability,” Nakana said.

To add insult to injury, when a bed was finally available, there was no ambulance immediately accessible to transport Oreratile to the facility.

“By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late, and young Oreratile succumbed to his pain, never leaving Odi Hospital due to the delays in securing a bed and available ambulances,” he said.

Nakana blamed the health services, saying they did not have any sense of urgency.

“In an emergency such as that one, they could have just transferred him without a bed and treated him on a stretcher, for crying out loud! We have just decided to bury our child with heavy hearts. They could have saved him,” he said.

Asked if the family were seeking any legal advice, Nakana said that was a possibility, but they were now focusing on burying their loved one.

Contacted for comment, Gauteng Health spokesperson Motalatale Modiba said he was not yet aware of the incident, but would look into it and respond as soon as he received answers.

By the time of going to print, there had not been a response.

Announcing his death in a statement recently, the Rotary Waterkloof’s Dr George Senosha said Oreratile would be buried in Pretoria on Saturday. He was described as a bright and compassionate learner.

“Oreratile, just six years old, was a promising learner, an active member of the Rotary Waterkloof Early Act Club, an Ambassador for Polio Plus, and an advocate for environmental Causes.

“His story is one of resilience and community spirit. It extended far beyond the walls of his school and hospital room. He was crowned the reigning King of Little Model Earth International 2023, a title awarded by the Modelling Academy and Children Festival International under the patronage of Amanda Kriel.

“Oreratile Chabalala and his peers, Kopano Senosha, Refentse Nthunya, Prudence Sithole, Freddy Seoloane, and Lesedi Sebanyoni proudly represented South Africa in a competition involving six countries: Russia, Botswana, Kenya, Estonia and Brazil.

“His legacy as a young, selfless person will forever inspire children and adults alike. His unwavering dedication to community service and his resilience in adversity are testaments to his exceptional character. May his soul rest in peace, and may his legacy continue to inspire the children of our world,” the statement concluded.

Pretoria News