A new report into horrific alleged incidents of sexual assault against mental health patients has led to three Gauteng state hospitals confirming gross inadequacies in security at the very facilities meant to protect the most vulnerable.
The Gauteng health department presented a short report to the Gauteng portfolio committee on health on Tuesday, detailing its findings relating to four incidents of alleged sexual assault at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Tara Moross Mental Health Hospital, Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital and Stanza Bopape Community Health Centre, which took place over the past two months.
The report identified that at three of the facilities – Charlotte Maxeke, Tara Moross and Bheki Mlangeni – “the areas where [mental healthcare] users were housed were not suitable to admit them”.
Last month, City Press reported on rape and violent attacks at Gauteng health facilities, wherein at Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital staff spoke of inadequate facilities used to house mental health patients as there was no designated or specialised ward for them.
At the time, the department confirmed it was investigating the alleged rape of a 16-year-old boy who had been admitted at the male medical ward, which sources say houses both psychiatric and non-psychiatric patients.
Following these and a host of other incidents of violence reported at the hospital, the SA Human Rights Commission held a day of inquiry last week.
In the department’s latest report, following an “interdisciplinary investigation” involving the SA Police Service, it listed the gaps identified at Charlotte Maxeke, Tara Moross and Bheki Mlangeni in the provision of safe care for patients.
“There were insufficient to no security interventions. Where security interventions were done, the areas where incidents directly happened do not allow for intruding on patients’ privacies, for example where mental health users were in the toilet,” the report stated.
It also noted that a mentally ill young boy who alleged that he had been raped was unable to give a “good explanation of events due to the nature and condition of his mental status”.
Clinical assessment by an expert team could not happen because the boy fell sick and had a high temperature, which placed him under investigation for the Covid-19 coronavirus.
Last month, sources within the hospital told us that the ward in question housed patients who came in for a 72-hour observation to confirm whether they were psychiatric or medical patients.
At Stanza Bopape, where a male nurse was alleged to have raped a male patient, the report said that the employee was suspended with immediate effect pending an investigation. The police were involved, but later released him pending the investigation. The office of the premier reportedly appointed a chairperson to head up the investigation on November 5, however, whether or not the matter was heard or not isn’t clear yet.
DA Member of the Provincial Legislature Jack Bloom said: “A shocking detail is that all the victims were minors, and were given post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent possible infection with HIV/Aids...”
“It was also disclosed in another report that the department had paid R900 000 to the family of the patient who was stabbed to death at Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital, and R260 000 was paid in settlement of a claim by another patient who survived a stabbing attack at the same hospital. That’s the price of a life at that hospital. It’s an interesting precedent that’s been set.”
Among the several recommendations listed in the report, including awaiting the conclusion of investigations by the police, the department said: “Hospital management is encouraged to report patient safety incidents on time and as per guidelines. The safety of patients is made a priority by the increase of security interventions and visibility.”