‘Disturbing’ number of public hospital patients have died due to negligence

More than 1 000 deaths due to negligence happened at Kalafong Hospital. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

More than 1 000 deaths due to negligence happened at Kalafong Hospital. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 27, 2022


Pretoria - Gauteng public hospitals recorded 1 954 deaths last year due to negligence by staff members – commonly known as Severe Adverse Events.

These are defined as unintended harm to the patient by an act of commission or omission rather than by the underlying disease or condition of the patient.

The highest number of deaths happened at Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria, where more than 1 000 patients died due to negligence.

This was revealed by Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in her written reply to questions asked by the DA provincial health spokesperson Jack Bloom in the legislature.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital recorded 854 deaths, Pretoria’s George Mukhari Hospital 453, Steve Biko Hospital, also in the capital city, 330 deaths, while the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital recorded 212 deaths.

Of the tertiary hospitals, Helen Joseph Hospital recorded 587 deaths, Kalafong Hospital 1 015 and Tembisa Hospital 626 deaths.

Other hospitals with disturbingly high numbers are Leratong with 395, Weskoppies Psychiatric with 367, Pholosong 239, Sebokeng 206, Mamelodi 194, Edenvale 157, Bertha Gxowa 134, Jubilee 122 and Bheki Mlangeni Hospital 118.

In her reply, Mokgethi said these deaths were part of the outcome of 6 910 deaths recorded last year, which resulted in only 28 disciplinary cases.

Adding to the trouble, Mokgethi said none of the cases had been referred to the patient safety and medico-legal committee.

“However, because the committee has not been functional, they are tackled by institutional safety committees,” she said.

She said 13 litigation and 31 mediation efforts were undertaken to resolve these matters.

Deaths had also occurred at various other regional and district hospitals in all parts of Gauteng.

Some of the specialised hospitals, such as the Sizwe Tropical, Sterkfontein Specialised Psychiatric, Cullinan and Tshwane rehabilitation hospitals, also reported deaths.

In reaction, Bloom asked: “How can there be so few disciplinary cases in this matter?

“These deaths have so far resulted in 13 litigation cases, and 31 referrals for mediation.

The worst hospital by far was Kalafong which had an astounding 1 015 deaths last year.

“This compares to the similar-size Helen Joseph and Tembisa hospitals which had 587 and 626 respectively, which are also unacceptably high,” Bloom said.

He said it was horrifying that there had been so many deaths and injuries to patients because of avoidable negligence.

“This is why medical negligence claims continue to rocket, with courts awarding massive payouts.

“Hospitals should be only about healing rather than places where patients are harmed,” he said.

Bloom said the department needed to improve hospital management drastically, and ensure that there were adequate and well-trained staff with proper equipment.

Pretoria News