Grim finds at KZN hospitals

2010-08-05 00:00

THE badly decomposed body of an unidentified woman was found on an air conditioning duct at Durban’s Addington Hospital on Monday afternoon.

The woman is believed to have fallen from the 15th floor of the hospital, landing on the duct between the air conditioning pipes on the fifth floor.

An air conditioning technician was requested to investigate a stench coming from the fifth floor toilet, where blowflies were also seen.

No in-patient identification bands were found on the body, which was dressed in private clothing, but it was too badly decomposed to determine the woman’s age.

In reaction, Health MEC Dr Sbongiseni Dhlomo announced yesterday that his department will use its own staff for security functions in future, so that hospital chiefs are held to account for breaches in security.

“It seems as though the deceased may have fallen from the higher floors (presumably the 15th) of the building and landed on the fifth floor.

“The structure of the hospital in the tower block is such that plumbing ducts traverse through all 15 floors to the basement in a continuous column. These ducts are located adjacent to specific patients’ toilets near the nurses’ station, with a door accessing the duct leading from each of these toilets on each floor,” explained Dhlomo in a statement.

In January the body of a baby went missing at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, while in May the decomposing body of a woman was found in a meeting hall at the same hospital.

In June, a decomposing body was found behind Northdale Hospital a few weeks after a patient was reported missing, but authorities said the body was not that of the missing patient.

Recently the body of a patient was discovered at Ngwelezane Hospital three days after she disappeared from the ward, while a few days later a body was discovered at Madadeni Hospital in Newcastle.

Dr Dhlomo said these incidents are disturbing when the World Health Organisation (WHO) expects all nations to pay attention to the problem of patient safety and to establish and strengthen systems necessary for improving patients’ safety and the quality of health care.

“A number of questions flood one’s mind when we hear of these unfortunate incidents. How can a patient disappear from the ward for days? When an hour passes with a patient out of sight, what do the ward nurses say? How does a person lie in a place dead, in a busy hospital, without anybody noticing? Are security officers doing patrols? These are some of the questions that need to be answered.

“Patient safety requires competent, careful and safety conscious individuals in all departments. In this regard, together with the police, our Forensic Pathology unit and the management at the hospital, we are investigating the circumstances that led to deceased plunge to death, the lapses in person control into and around the wards and to trace the next of kin,” Dhlomo said.

He said disciplinary steps would be taken against senior sisters in hospitals where nurses are found not to be keeping a roll call.

Police spokeperson Captain Thulani Zwane said a postmortem has still to determine the cause of death and accurate identity.

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