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Tembisa 10: Gosiame Sithole’s medical records ‘removed after health department’s IT systems tampered with’

From left: Advocate Michael Donan, obstetrician Dr Mpho Pooe and Dr Iqbal Surve during a press conference by Independent Media regarding the outcome of an investigation into the decuplets. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

From left: Advocate Michael Donan, obstetrician Dr Mpho Pooe and Dr Iqbal Surve during a press conference by Independent Media regarding the outcome of an investigation into the decuplets. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 29, 2021

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Pretoria - The Department of Health’s information technology systems were apparently tampered with - and Moliehi Gosiame Sithole’s medical records removed - as part of a medical negligence cover up and a conspiracy to hide the truth about her missing babies.

Medical practitioners and social workers also conducted themselves unprofessionally, subjected Sithole to inhumane treatment after her stressful birth and denied her access to medical records at a request.

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After trying and failing to convince Sithole to give up her babies for adoption in exchange for money, the doctors and social workers claimed the frail mother was delusional and illegally sent her to the Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital after she demanded to see her babies.

She was released from Weskoppies on August 9 on condition she agreed she was never pregnant and did not speak about her babies ever.

This emerged at a media briefing on Wednesday held by Independent Media to release the outcomes of multiple investigations into the pregnancy and delivery of the decuplets by Sithole in June this year.

The briefing was addressed by medical practitioner Dr Mpho Pooe, who examined Sithole, Independent Media Executive Chairman Dr Iqbal Surve, whose company hired private investigators to probe the issue, as well as Human Rights Lawyer advocate Michael Donen SC who conducted an independent inquiry into the decuplets matter.

Pooe, who examined Sithole after she was released from Weskoppies on August 9, said on Wednesday that her medical examination and parallel investigation discovered that Sithole was indeed pregnant, delivered babies and that she had a sound mind.

During her investigation into Sithole blood samples, which were sent to the National Health Laboratory System (NHLS), Pooe said she was shocked.

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She developed suspicion that either someone had hacked the system or a government employee might have interfered with Sithole’s data as all the information about her could not be located.

“When you look at the file they did write the results by hand, but when you look (into the system) you don’t find them,” she said.

Pooe said when she logged into the system to look for the file number according to her date of birth, her age and her ID number Sithole did not exist on the government system.

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“We found that they were using several IDs but even using those IDs, they don’t exist on the system. Even if I can put my name as Mpho Pooe in the system, it is supposed to show me (multiple) Mphos … and we will (then) eliminate them by dates of birth. She does not exist on the system … Is she a ghost in South Africa?” she said.

Pooe said officials from the Department of Health did not co-operate with her when she requested Sithole’s medical records to understand her medical history before treating her.

This was despite Sithole having signed consent forms for her medical records to be released.

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Pooe said instead of receiving dignified and necessary medical treatment after a stressful birth, Sithole was subjected to humiliation by the very people who were supposed to give her proper medical treatment and care.

Pooe, who appeared emotionally charged, reminded fellow doctors that they were bound by the oath and health ethics.

“We are supposed to be saving lives, we are supposed to be happy when life is safe and when life is brought to earth. We are supposed to be rejoicing when we see a woman having 10 babies, we are supposed to be supporting her, but what have we done to this woman? We have destroyed her intentionally … We have incarcerated her at a psychiatric institution and labelled her,” said Pooe.

In June, the Gauteng Department of Social Development invoked the Mental Health Act and placed Sithole as an involuntary mental patient at Tembisa Hospital after she demanded to see her babies.

Pooe also discovered that not all relevant forms were filled before Sithole was held at a mental institution against her will.

The admission forms had been filled in by a social worker without the involvement of and permission from Sithole’s family. Pooe found it strange that the social worker in question reached a conclusion that Sithole was delusional.

“And all the basis on her being delusional was that she keeps on asking, ‘where are my babies?’ Just because of that question, everyone said she is delusional, which is sad because … no one went into the records.”

Sitole’s forced admission to Tembisa Hospital came after she was illegally arrested in the early hours of the morning by the Gauteng police and taken to the Chloorkop police station without an arrest warrant or any criminal case against her.

Human Rights Lawyer Donen told the same media briefing that Sithole’s detention was illegal.

Following Wednesday’s revelations, the health department in Gauteng threatened legal action against Independent Media over what it described as serious allegations made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials.

"The provincial government cannot stand by while serious allegations are made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials. These are women and men of integrity, who are working selflessly and honestly every day to save lives and, at times, even risking their own lives," said the department in a statement.

* Dr Mpho Pooe: a medical practitioner, gender and human rights activist in one

A medical practitioner, gender and human rights activist, Dr Mpho Pooe runs an obstetrics and gynecology practice at Louis Pasteur Hospital, a private health facility in Pretoria.

Born and bred in Soweto, Pooe holds a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) from the University of Limpopo’s (now Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University) department of obstetrics and gynecology. She later trained as a Registrar in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Not only is Pooe a medical practitioner; she’s also a labour, human rights and gender activist who cares about the wellbeing of her counterparts in the health industry.

Obstetrician Dr Mpho Pooe. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA)

As a former chairperson of the South African Medical Association Trade Union (SAMATU) in Gauteng, she once led an Occupation Specific Dispensation strike demanding better salaries and the improvement of doctors living and working conditions. Pooe is also the co-founder of the Medical Women Association of South Africa (MWASA), an organisation that looks after the interest of medical practitioners, specialists, registrars and medical students.

Apart from practicing as a gynaecologist, Pooe also did research on the impact of HIV on cervical cancer patients and founded the Mosadi Letsele Bontle, an organisation that teaches and assists women with breast cancer and survivors.

Currently, Pooe is assisting health workers post-Covid-19 and is busy with research on the impact of Covid-19 on health workers. She works with drug-addicted young girls and boys in Orlando East, Soweto and is a regular commentator on the importance of saving women from breast cancer and protecting healthcare workers from contracting Covid-19.

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