SAHRC tells Mamelodi Hospital doctor his statement about hospital abuse is contradictory

2019-06-11 16:58
SAHRC, Gauteng chairperson, Buang Jones, demonstrating how Martha Marais was tied to a bench at Mamelodi Hospital

SAHRC, Gauteng chairperson, Buang Jones, demonstrating how Martha Marais was tied to a bench at Mamelodi Hospital (Ntwaagae Seleka)

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The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has told a doctor at Mamelodi Hospital, Tshwane that his answers about what transpired when 76-year-old Martha Marais was restrained under a bench last month were contradictory. 

The incident took place in the hospital casualty section.

On Tuesday, the SAHRC, accompanied by senior officials from the hospital, took a tour of the facility, where serious issues were raised by staff members.

Medical specialist and head of casualty Dr Adeleye Awolola told SAHRC provincial manager Buang Jones that Marais had been confused.  

"She was waiting for a doctor to attend to her. She was actually sitting on the bench. She was a confused patient. She was not supposed to be sitting on the chair. She is a [mentally challenged] patient and was a confused patient, but if we had proper resources, she was not supposed to be there," said Awolola.

"Are you disputing the version of events?" asked Jones.

Awolola replied that Marais had been restrained while sitting in the chair, but had moved until she lay on the floor. 

Jones told Awolola that his answers were not convincing. 

In a video clip which went viral on social media platforms, Marais can be seen on the floor, tied to a bench, with her hands behind her back. A security guard is seen standing next to her, and her daughter Stephnie Marais is screaming and asking the guard why are they are treating her mother like an animal.

"Please come and make her loose," screamed Stephnie, before she and two others tried to untie the pensioner.

Serious shortage of beds

On Tuesday, officials at the hospital complained about a serious shortage of beds. They said, in some cases, patients were forced to sleep in wheelchairs, while others lay on the floor, waiting for medical attention. Awolola said the casualty department was expected to cater for nearly 35 patients, but that the numbers had multiplied, leaving it overcrowded.

The hospital was also relying on nursing agencies to provide additional staff, as there was a shortage of nurses. 

"It is a tender, or is it labour brokers to bring nurses from agencies instead of hiring people?" asked Jones.

Mamelodi Hospital

A patient lying on the floor at the overcrowded casualty ward at Mamelodi Hospital. (Ntwaagae Seleka, News24)


Nurse Phuphuma Mthombeni, who has been working in casualty for a year, told Jones about the overcrowding in the ward.

"Overcrowding here is a challenge. Patients need proper care and we try our level best to treat them with the care they deserve. This section is meant to cater for 25 to 35 patients, but on month-ends, the trauma unit sees a huge number of patients. As nurses, we motivate each other.

"Negativity affects me. I took a pledge to be here. We try and meet every patient's needs. Ventilation here is a problem," said Mthombeni.

READ: Family of Martha Marais who was tied to bench lay assault charges

'The problem here is the system itself'

The chairperson of Denosa at the hospital, William Aphane, complained to Jones that, whenever something went wrong, nurses were blamed.

"The problem here is the system itself. There are lots of problems in the system. We have a shortage of stretchers, seclusion rooms and infrastructure. This has affected nurses' morale," he said.

Jones said that, for the past 18 months, the commission had visited more than five healthcare facilities in Gauteng and that the issues were the same.

"We are concerned about the physical infrastructure at the hospital."

He said Mamelodi management needed to meet with new Health MEC Bandile Masuku to discuss expanding the facility to meet the demands of the growing population in Pretoria East. Jones added that critical staff shortages also needed to be addressed, because it had far-reaching consequences.

"That translates to bad staff attitudes, high incidents of absenteeism, healthcare workers being overburden and low staff morale," said Jones. 

Quantity assurance officer at the hospital, Maesela Phogole, promised to fully cooperate with the commission to ensure that they find longer-lasting solutions.

Read more on:    sahrc  |  mamelodi hospital  |  pretoria  |  service delivery  |  health
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