Officials in trouble over patient deaths at Dr George Mukhari Hospital
One Gauteng hospital boss has been charged with gross negligence and dereliction of duty following his alleged failure to report the deaths to his political boss, then MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa in January 2017.
Charges against a top Gauteng Infrastructure department’s senior engineer were still pending for allegedly recommending the opening of the burns unit at the hospital despite concerns about poor ventilation which allegedly endangered patients’ lives.
This was revealed by Health MEC Bandile Masuku in his written reply to questions by the DA’s spokesperson on health Jack Bloom following the mysterious deaths of nine burns victim unit patients between November 2016 and January 2017.
The Burns Unit was built with a R3 million donation from the Smile Foundation and another R3m from the Department of Infrastructure Development.
Bloom asked for written replies in the Gauteng legislature after receiving a tip-off that the Dr George Mukhari’s Hospital senior managers had been warned that they should not open the new unit due to lack of proper ventilation.
The unit, however, was officially opened on November 21, 2016 by the then Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu but closed two months later - in January 2017 - following the deaths.
Masuku, in his written reply, confirmed the deaths but said the causes were part of the forensic investigation set up by Premier David Makhura soon after he became aware of them.
“We view the matter as sub judice,” Masuku said.
Masuku, however, said the causes of deaths were inhalation, pneumonia and HIV-related illnesses.
“Most patients had poor prognosis. HIV-positive; defaulted treatment low CD4 count developed pneumonia and candida septicaemia.”
He said the hospital had conducted mortality and morbidity meetings to determine the causes of deathand whether they were avoidable. Masuku said Makhura’s forensic investigation was still under way.
He said disciplinary action against the top hospital administrator - who is also a medical doctor - “is in progress hence the forensic investigation”.
The hospital boss - whose name is withheld pending the outcome of the forensic investigation and disciplinary action - had allegedly failed to inform Ramokgopa that nine patients died at the unit.
Clinicians had also raised concerns about the ventilation system after the opening of the unit.
Masuku said the charges against the engineer would only be preferred against him after the outcome and recommendations of the forensic investigation.
A third official is also linked to the charges but Masuku maintained that the outcome of the forensic investigation would determine the actions to be taken against all three of them if found guilty.
Before Masuku’s confirmation, there were no reports about the deaths either by the Department of Health or in the media.
Bloom bemoaned the secrecy around the deaths of the nine patients, saying it was a cover-up to avoid publicity similar to that of Life Esidimeni deaths.