RK Khan Hospital. File picture: Zanele Zulu

Durban - The Department of Health has claimed that the patient with thousands of maggots in his mouth had a "history of neglect."

A video of Sadek Ebrahim, 52, maggots in his mouth while he was a patient at RK Khan Hospital has gone viral on social media. 

He died of natural causes on Wednesday. 

His son Azaad Ebrahim who made the discovery described the Department's statement as "very disturbing."

"How was my father neglected? I need specifics. We cared for him when he was at home and we definitely did not send him to hospital with maggots. 

"My father was a human being and he did not deserve to die that way. It is very disturbing for me as a son." 

Ebrahim had been admitted in hospital since June 19 and was being treated for gangrene. 

Responding to media inquiries after the video first surfaced - before Sadek's death - department spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said "the Department is prohibited from divulging the clinical details of a patient and how they are managed, the Department can nevertheless confirm that it is treating a particular patient who has a history of neglect and suffers from a number of serious ailments.

"Health professionals who were attending to a particular patient were concerned but not alarmed by certain developments during treatment, and have since employed the necessary protocols as part of efforts to improve his condition."

She added:  "The Department can confirm that management of the facility concerned have met the patient’s next-of-kin and duly explained all that is material to the patient’s condition and management."

The Department said it was concerned by about the filming and distribution of footage depicting a patient who is currently receiving care within one of its facilities. 

"Such an act, even if perpetrated by relatives of the patient, as it sometimes happens, constitutes a violation of the patient’s inherent right to privacy and dignity."

The Department said that clinical matters and related decisions by clinicians on the management of patients are highly complex and may be influenced by a variety of factors, which may not always be understood by laypersons, including – with all due respect – members of the media. 

"Therefore, the merits, accuracy and truthfulness – or otherwise - of such matters cannot be vouched for, as those who seek to engage in them are not clinically trained, and therefore, not qualified to make such pronouncements. Media stories based on such information are largely informed by emotions, and may tend to lend themselves to sensationalism, as opposed to balanced and objective reporting."