Patient dies waiting

2008-03-21 00:00

PEARL Magubane spent her last days in agony on a wooden bench in Addington Hospital, while her mother fought to find her a bed.

After waiting three days for a bed and treatment, Pearl gave up the fight to stay alive and died in her sleep.

With a drip attached to her arm and suffering from painful abscesses, she waited for a bed and for a doctor to treat her. Now her family wants to know whether the young woman would still be alive had she received the medical attention she needed.

Her grief-stricken mother, Alvina Magubane, told Weekend Witness that Pearl was referred to the hospital by a doctor with a high fever and large abscesses under her arms.

“Pearl was in a lot of pain. She had spent the previous night in tears … It was decided that we would take her to Addington so she could get proper medical attention,” she said.

Magubane said her husband took Pearl to the casualty ward on Thursday, March 13, but he was told that there were no beds available. “They put a drip on her and made her sit on a chair. Security guards told my husband that he couldn’t sit with Pearl. He was forced to leave the area,” she said.

Weak and barely able to speak, Pearl sat and waited for treatment. “The nursing sister told me … she didn’t know when a bed would become available for my daughter,” she said.

Magubane said her patience was “wearing thin”, so she told the nurse she wanted to take Pearl home to rest and would bring her back in the morning. “Pearl was upset that no one had treated her. She just sat and sat on that bench waiting for something to happen. She was weak and uncomfortable,” she said.

On the Friday, Pearl arrived at the ward and was told to sit on the bench until staff could find her a bed. “She was not the only person there. There were others who were also in pain. You see how uncomfortable they were and yet nothing was done to help them.”

Holding back tears, she said Pearl spent most of the day in tears, alone and in extreme pain. “As a mother, my heart bled. It was torture to see my child in so much pain. I asked a staff nurse if Pearl could lie on a stretcher that was not being used,” she said.

After an argument, the nurse allowed her to rest on the stretcher. “Pearl fell asleep and looked a little relaxed. Her back was sore from sitting on the hard bench. I started crying when I saw her and prayed that they would find her a bed.”

Last Saturday, the family received a call from the hospital telling them there was a bed available. At 5 pm, Pearl was taken to a ward to wait for a doctor. She died a few hours later.

“All that fighting to find Pearl a bed was in vain because she didn’t even get to see a doctor. I know that this is happening to others as well. I’m just sad that my child died in so much pain.”

Magubane believes that Pearl would be alive if she had received immediate medical attention.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa confirmed that there is a shortage of beds at state hospitals due to the increase in patients.

“This increase is really affecting us. We cannot hide this problem. We will investigate this particular incident.” Pearl’s funeral will be held today.

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