Police called to subdue Northdale mental patient

2009-03-23 00:00

Another incident involving a psychiatric patient running wild at Northdale Hospital within the space of a month was reported yesterday.

A witness said the man was running wild in Ward C of the hospital, assaulting staff and patients and breaking hospital equipment. He said police had to be called in to prevent the patient from doing any more damage. The witness said police cleared the ward and then used teargas to subdue the patient.

Superintendant Henry Budhram confirmed the incident was reported, but not that teargas was used.

Last month, The Witness published a story about a psychiatric patient who attacked a female doctor and made sexual advances to women in the maternity ward.

Doctors and nurses expressed fears about having to admit psychiatric patients to the hospital without adequate security or staff to handle these cases.

Asked to comment yesterday, KZN Health Department spokesman Leon Mbangwa said: "I have a problem with Northdale staff. Instead of doing their duty and being loyal to their employers, they run to the paper and cause public panic."

The witness to yesterday's event is not a staff member.

Though Mbangwa confirmed the incident in February, he denied other reports involving psychiatric patients. In an article published on February 18, he said, "Other than the incident mentioned above - only one patient tampered with a stationary golf cart and the rest of the allegations are a figment of someone's imagination."

One of the earlier reports was about a mental patient setting fire to his mattress in August 2008.

A 23-year-old mental patient was found hanged in a hospital bathroom early last year.

And in 2007, in an incident similar to the one in February, a patient allegedly attacked a nurse and patients and made sexual advances in the post-natal ward. A traumatised nurse took special leave following the incident, and a 16-year-old new mother checked out of the hospital early, also traumatised.

A staff member responded that "most female staff members are terrified of walking in passages and corridors for fear of mentally ill patients who move about unsupervised. There are not enough staff to supervise patients when they leave the wards," she said.

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