Hospital denies ignoring woman

2010-03-18 22:42

Cape Town - The Eastern Cape health department has expressed concern at a report that a German woman died after being turned away from a private hospital in East London on Thursday.

Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the woman was injured in a head-on collision outside the city on Thursday morning.

Her sister was killed in the accident, and two other women in their vehicle were injured.

They had been visiting a third sister, a trainee doctor on an exchange programme at East London's Frere Hospital, and were on their way to Coffee Bay, Kupelo said.

The survivors, and two South African occupants of the other vehicle, were taken to the private hospital by ambulance.

Could have saved her

They were allegedly turned away because there was no guarantee that the costs of their care would be paid, he said.

The ambulances took them all instead to Frere, a state hospital, where the sister that survived the crash was declared dead on arrival.

There was "a belief" that she could have been saved had she been treated earlier, Kupelo said.

He said the law stated clearly that no private health facility could turn away patients without first stabilising them.

Costs guaranteed

Only then could they be referred to a state institution.

Kupelo said the two remaining women were later taken back to the private hospital after an acquaintance guaranteed their costs.

One of the women was in a serious condition, while the other had minor injuries.

A spokesperson for the private hospital said it was investigating the matter and would likely issue a statement on Thursday night.
Life St Dominic's hospital manager, Kurt Wylie, said neither of these two people who died were brought to its trauma and emergency unit and turned away.

He said, however, that one of the patients who were injured in the accident and classified by a paramedic as a Priority 2 case was received by the hospital.

"This patient received treatment in the unit immediately and was subsequently admitted to a general ward in the hospital, all without a medical aid card being validated by the hospital or the hospital demanding up-front payment," Wylie said.

No knowledge of critical patient

He said that later on Thursday, a patient was referred to them from Frere Hospital and it was at this stage that they became aware that the patient had also been involved in the earlier accident.

He said on referral, the patient was triaged as a Priority 1 patient (critical) and received immediate treatment before being admitted to the hospital.

Wylie said they were alerted to the allegations after they had admitted the critical patient.

Following their investigation, Wylie said: "A member of the ambulance team came into the trauma and emergency unit, and presented a card to the receptionist."

He said the member also asked whether the hospital was familiar with such cards and their receptionist responded that it was not a medical aid card.

"At no point was a patient brought into the unit, nor did the member of the ambulance team make any reference to the fact that there was a (critical) patient in the ambulance, who needed stabilisation or treatment," Wylie said.