Johannesburg - Don John Sibulele scrolls through his phone.
There is not a single picture of his new born baby.
A few weeks ago, his phone was filled with happy and delightful pictures of his newborn baby boy Paul.
Today, however, all the joyous pictures of Paul are gone.
His wife, Keinelee Ntikile, had asked her husband to delete every picture of their newborn as the pain of seeing them was far too much to handle.
The couple from Johannesburg tragically lost their baby last month, just a few days after being born.
Paul, was born prematurely after seven months. While premature babies normally spend a lengthy period of time recovering in hospital, this wasn’t the case for baby Paul.
He was meant to spend two more months in hospital. Instead, both Keinelee and her baby were sent packing after three days. Staff said “there was no space” to accommodate them.
The baby spent an extra few days in the hospital before being told there was no room to accommodate him either.
Even though baby Paul was severely underweight, at just 1.74kgs, was on oxygen and could not breathe on his own, he was sent home.
“I really couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that our baby was being discharged so early,” said Sibulele.
“He was severely underweight, and I assumed he needed to be there much longer so that he could gain some weight. Over a year ago, my wife and I had our first child, France. He, too, was born prematurely. However, the hospital he was born in had kept him for over two months so that he could fully recover. I couldn’t understand why Paul was being sent home after just a few days.
“When my wife just gave birth, we were even told by nurses at the hospital that our baby was going to be there for a couple of months. There was nothing we could do. We had asked the hospital why he is being released so early, and all we were told was that there was no space.”
After just a week of being at home, baby Paul tragically died.
“When I carried my son when he just arrived home, you could feel that he was severely underweight. It was like carrying a feather. It didn’t feel right,” said Sibulele.
“I was holding the baby with a blanket, but it felt like I was just holding the blanket. Our baby was really tiny.”
Sibulele said the image of seeing his son’s tiny lifeless body would haunt him for the rest of his life.
“On the day that he died, we woke up, and everything was okay. My wife put the baby to rest, and she had gone to bath. I was busy feeding my other child. When my wife got out of the shower, she wanted to breastfeed the baby. She held the baby, but she saw that something was wrong. She started screaming for me, saying ‘there’s something wrong’.
“She said the baby was quiet and wasn’t breathing. I held him and tried opening his eyes. Just his mouth remained open. I called the ambulance immediately. They only came three hours later, but by then, it was too late. Our baby had died already.”
The couple are now blaming the hospital for the death of their baby, claiming the hospital was negligent in sending their son home despite being severely underweight and not healthy enough to go home.
“The reason that my son is no longer with us is because of the hospital's negligence. He should have never been discharged this soon.”
Sibulele also claims that the hospital staff were unprofessional and rude to him and his wife, with one staff member at the hospital allegedly taunting the couple after their baby had died.
“When we returned to pick up the medical certificate at the hospital after our son had died, the receptionist taunted me and asked me why I had killed my own son. He asked me, did I hang him? I was furious and was filled with disgust.
“I was ready to attack him in the hospital, but my wife had calmed me down. I reported him to management at the hospital, and he was forced to apologise to me. You could see that he was being forced to apologise as it looked like he didn’t really want to.”
“We were heartbroken, and then to get taunted by the hospital staff who are responsible really infuriated me and threw me over the edge.”
He says the hospital has not communicated with him ever since and has provided them with no explanations or no answers.
But this is not the first time that Rahima Moosa Mother and Children’s Hospital has been in the spotlight.
Over the last few months, horrific stories of patients’ experiences at the hospital have emerged.
Also recently, Paediatrician Dr Tim de Maayer wrote an open letter to the Gauteng health department, stating that the "horrendous conditions in our public hospitals" contribute to children's deaths.
He highlighted the poor state of Rahima Moosa hospital in Johannesburg, where he works.
While de Maayer was suspended initially for blowing the whistle on public hospitals, he was eventually reinstated.
Some of the concerns raised by De Maayer in his letter included that generators were inadequately sized to supply the hospital during load shedding, water cuts that led to the spread of infections, and the shocking state of toilets at the hospital.
Another mother, Veaan Crawford, claimed that carelessness and negligence had led to her baby, Abdul Malik Crawford, dying at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital, where 385 patients died due to alleged negligence in 2018, according to Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku.
Sibulele is now determined to take legal action against the hospital. However, due to him not being financially well off, he is unsure of whether he will be able to.
“It’s not even about money or anything like that. All I want is for the hospital to give us answers and to be held accountable for the loss of our son,” said Sibulele.
“We need closure, and we demand answers from the hospital. Also, we want to make the public aware of the hospital and their negligence so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Sibulele said he was in the process of looking for a lawyer who would be able to take his case pro-bono as he wasn’t able to afford legal fees.
“I even struggled to pay for my own child’s burial. I won’t be able to pay legal fees to take on the hospital. I think that’s why the hospital just doesn’t care. They see us as people who don’t have the power to take them on, and so they don’t care.”
The family have been struggling to cope with the loss of their son.
“Financially, we are not well off, so we have had to carry on working even though it's been so tough to deal with the death of our son. We just want justice and some sort of closure, as the hospital has not given us any answers.”
The Department of Health confirmed that they are aware of the case and are investigating.
However, questions about why baby Paul was discharged so soon could not be answered by the Department.
“We are aware of the matter. Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital is currently investigating the case,” said Motalatale Modiba, Head of Communication at the Department of Health.