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Cholera victims say support nowhere to be found

Published Oct 12, 2023


A HAMMANSKRAAL family has decried having to watch their relative slowly deteriorate until her death following a Cholera infection, while various governmental entities who promised to support victims of the outbreak were nowhere to be seen.

Just this past weekend, the family of Paulina Tlhabi laid her to rest after she battled to recover from contracting cholera in May following the outbreak of the virus in the community north of Pretoria.

Her sister Mmabatho Kekana said Tlhabi was initially admitted to Jubilee Hospital on May 29 after contracting cholera, where she spent three weeks until she was discharged on June 24.

Upon her discharge, Kekana said her usually bubbly and healthy sister could no longer walk or perform any basic functions, much to their concern.

"When she went in she could walk and do a lot for herself even though she was weak, but when she returned she would just stare at us and couldn’t walk any more. The social workers came when she was in the hospital, and they even promised us that they would come back, but they never did."

After being home for almost two weeks, the family said they decided to take Tlhabi back to the Jubilee Hospital as her condition had deteriorated with her not only being unable to walk, but she could not move, talk or even eat anything.

"We went to check up on her in hospital after a few days only to find she was not getting any better. When we asked the staff they said they did not know what to do, and to give them permission instead to transfer her to the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital."

Kekana said the family urged the hospital not to delay and transfer Tlhabi as soon as possible, however, they alleged they were informed this would take a few days.

Unfortunately, her transfer did not take place in time and the family said they were informed on September 30 that she had died.

"We’re not saying she was not supposed to die because she was old and sick, but no one came to support us. No one told us how much worse she would be or even offer us any form of counselling or support.

"As a family, we feel that the government and the Tshwane Municipality failed us. They promised to come but no one turned up until she died, and it’s hard for us to make peace with this," Kekana added.

On May 31, Health Minister Joe Phaahla confirmed 99 cases of cholera and 23 deaths had been recorded in Hammanskraal, Pretoria, which became the epicentre of the cholera outbreak.

While an independent investigation into the source of the outbreak found high levels of E. coli in nearby rivers which indicated the presence of faecal matter, the source of the cholera outbreak remained unclear.

Numerous stakeholders from the City of Tshwane, Department of Health, Water and Sanitation, Gauteng Human Settlements, and even President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the area in the days following the escalating numbers of infections in the community.

Attempts to get comment from the Health Department were unsuccessful by the time of publication.