‘We fear for our lives’

2019-06-12 06:01
Pieces of canvas, plastic and other material, used by hawkers as shelter, hang over the dilapidated fence of the Pelonomi Hospital.

Pieces of canvas, plastic and other material, used by hawkers as shelter, hang over the dilapidated fence of the Pelonomi Hospital.

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”We are fearing for our lives now that criminals attack us at our workplace,” an angry nurse at the Pelonomi Hospital told Express this week.

The hospital gained renewed notoriety after attacks on female doctors in two separate incidents.

Problems of porous safety and security, recently illustrated by an attempted rape of an intern female doctor and an armed robbery of another at the Pelonomi Hospital, are not new.

Angry nurses and staff working night and day duty, speaking unanimously, say grave concern over problems of poor safety and security were raised with the hospital management years ago.

According to them the two latest incidents, involving two female doctors, were a ticking time bomb gone off, signalling the dangerous situation they are working in.

The latest incidents happened just four days apart.

The first was the attempted rape of a 24-year-old female doctor on Monday, 3 June, at around 23:15 and the second an armed robbery of a 44-year-old female doctor on Saturday (08/06) at around 05:15 in the hospital parking bay.

The first case highlighting security problems and safety at the hospital was in 2010 with the assault and rape of a female doctor, then 35 years old.

She was raped and assaulted inside the hospital, one of the biggest in the Free State.

One of the attackers hit the doctor on the head with a brick and they proceeded to rape her in a ward that was being renovated.

The doctor’s ordeal ended with the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein sentencing a Lesotho minor for rape and robbery.

The accused, then 16 years old, pleaded guilty to the rape and aggravated robbery charges. However, due to lack of evidence, charges were dismissed against two other men held in connection with the incident.

“Tough talk about beefing up safety and security at this hospital has come to nothing since the first case of a doctor being raped within the premises of this hospital,” says an angry nurse.

“The attempted rape of a female doctor and the robbery of another clearly indicates the high risk for all employees at this hospital.

“We are fearing for our lives now that criminals attack us at our workplace.”

Another nurse lamented the non-functioning of surveillance cameras all around the hospital.

“We have cases of theft out of vehicles of doctors, staff members and patients in broad daylight.”

Mondli Mvambi, spokesperson of the Department of Health, said the impact of the latest criminal incidents has caused harm.

“This has certainly broken the trust between community members and hospital staff. A task team is assessing all risk factors around the hospital to restore safety and security.”

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