Delay in treating heat victim

2013-05-27 00:00

The KZN Department of Health is to be invited to be part of the Commission of Inquiry into the deaths of eight traffic recruits during a fitness test in December last year.

This was after advocate for the KZN Department of Transport, Ravi Padayachee, during cross examination on Friday, asked about a delay in the treatment of Bongiwe Mbatha at Grey’s Hospital.

He asked Mbatha’s mother, Gloria Sithole whether she knew that her daughter had arrived at the hospital with a temperature of 38,8° Celsius and 55 minutes later her temperature had gone up to 40,9° Celsius. “For 55 minutes while your daughter was in the hands of the hospital her temperatures goes up by 2,1 degrees. It appears nothing else was done to cool her down,” he said.

Examining Mbatha’s medical records, Padayachee listed a series of medical issues, including hypertension, hypothermia, and seizures. He said the doctor who wrote the report said that all these conditions led to multiple organ failure and Mbatha’s death.

He asked Sithole if her daughter had any of these conditions before she applied to be a trainee traffic officer and whether she had seen a doctor. Sithole responded that she was amazed that coming to

Pietermaritzburg “caused her to have all these diseases that made her die”.

She said Mbatha displayed no symptoms of having any of the conditions described and had not gone to any doctors. Sithole said she had assumed that since her daughter had been invited to undergo the process to become a trainee traffic officer, she would be examined and given a health test.

Commission chairperson advocate Thandi Norman SC told Padayachee that she was deliberating whether the Health Department should be invited. Padayachee responded that in Mbatha’s case, his concern was not with the recruitment itself, but with the administration of Mbatha as a patient.

Norman then instructed the commission’s secretary to send a transcript of the cross examination to Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. She instructed that a letter also be sent to the MEC to study the transcript and exercise his discretion on whether he would like to have a representative at the commission.

The second witness at Friday’s hearing, Mpumelelo Kunene from Newcastle, described how she kept in touch with her brother Lindokhule Kunene by phone all day. In the late afternoon when he told her he had not yet run and that there were people collapsing, she urged him to perservere.

The next time she called his phone, it was answered by a paramedic who told her he was being rushed to hospital. The last time she called, the phone was answered by a nurse who said that her brother was no longer breathing.

Mpumelelo, a police constable, told the commission that she had also gone through a recruitment process.

In the case of the police service, the trainees were first given a psychometric test; those who passed were then invited to undergo a physical test. Before that, recruits’ body mass index (BMI) was measured and those above a certain figure could not go on with the interview. She said that the fitness test entailed running between two points in an area the size of the boardroom in the premier’s office where the commission was being held. They had to run up and down — for females 25 times and for males 30 — and to cross a tape each time before it beeped. If it beeped before you reached the tape, you were eliminated.

The commission will resume on June 4, 2013.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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