Tembisa Hospital staff failed to apologise for Shonisani Lethole’s death
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Johannesburg - Witnesses at the Tembisa Hospital failed to apologise for the death of Shonisani Lethole, except for the chief executive, according to the Health Ombudsman, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba.
The ombud found the hospital was negligent in its treatment of Lethole, a Covid-19 positive patient. Lethole was denied food on two occasions totalling nearly four days and subsequently died.
“Sometimes when we were doing our investigations, we didn’t feel that there was dignity. Not on a single occasion when we were conducting interviews did I hear a witness say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Only the hospital CEO said I’m sorry; he was concerned about the loss of a young life,” said Makgoba.
The professor was tasked by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to probe Lethole’s death and his tweet to the minister on June 25, in which he said he had not eaten for 48 hours.
“The truth does not have multiple versions. What we discovered during our investigation is that people were trying to give us multiple versions of the truth and they didn’t coincide with our findings,” he said.
The probe uncovered that Lethole was not provided with food at the hospital on two occasions, totalling nearly four days. First, for 43 hours 24 minutes after admission and again, another 57 hours 30 minutes while intubated, sedated and on a mechanical ventilator.
“Tembisa Hospital failed to provide objective credible evidence that Mr Lethole was provided food on these two occasions. Instead, some staff members went to great lengths to hide or even twist obvious information found in the clinical record. Furthermore, hospital management went out to solicit evidence from previously admitted patients to no avail,” said Makgoba.
The investigation also found Lethole died from Covid-19 with multisystem dysfunction compounded by poor and negligent medical care.
According to the ombud’s report, during many aspects of the investigation, the art of caring was sadly missing and the record-keeping “appalling”, with notes either not found, not available or poorly recorded without proper identifiers such as time, name, credentials and dates.
Makgoba has recommended that Gauteng MEC of Health Nomathemba Mokgethi urgently appoint an independent forensic and audit firm to conduct a competency assessment of management at the hospital.
“In light of the wide-ranging findings in this report, the Health MEC, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi, should institute a disciplinary inquiry against Dr Mogaladi, the CEO and accounting officer of the hospital for presiding over such a state of affairs.”
Mokgethi explained she was not in office when the incident occurred, but was committed to studying the Ombud’s report and implementing the recommendations.
She said the department would use the report to help improve the patient experience of care and provide quality, dignified services in the province’s health-care facilities.
“What I can assure the Lethole family is that we are going to implement those recommendations as they are and once again the Gauteng Department of Health extends its heartfelt apology and condolence to the family.”