Could he have been saved? If he received the proper care in time, would his little brother be alive? These are the questions that haunt a Limpopo man who watched his brother bleed to death after they were turned away from a clinic in Ntwane Village near Groblersdal because “there were no first aid kits or bandages”.
Prince Makitla and his family are still in shock after the death of Billy Makitla (34) in August after they had to drive away from a clinic in search of help. Clinic staff had told them there was nothing they could do to stem the bleeding. Now, the family wants answers.
THAT FATEFUL DAY
Billy had been helping his neighbour William Baba Ramphisa (32) paint his house. William’s family was preparing for a tombstone unveiling ceremony. He asked Billy to pop over when he had a chance to help out. Like any good neighbour, Billy showed up.
No one could have imagined that within hours, he would be dead. The father of one was up on a ladder when he fell and cut his arm on a broken window. William had gone to the tuck shop at the time. It was William’s mother who heard the commotion of Billy’s fall and his cry for help. Joyce Ramphisa (61) immediately called Prince, Billy’s brother, telling him to hurry to her place.
“I immediately stopped watching TV and drove to my neighbour’s house.” When he got there, all he saw was blood. “When I arrived Joyce was trying to stop his bleeding. She had wrapped a towel around the injury. Joyce’s daughter helped us put him inside my car as he was weak. I rushed him to Kwarrielaagte Clinic, a five-minute drive away.” At the clinic, Prince parked his car and ran inside. “I pleaded with three nurses for help and they followed me to my car.”
LOSING PRECIOUS MINUTES
What happened next still has him traumatised. The nurses merely looked at his brother, Prince says, and told him to rather take him to the hospital. “They said there is nothing they can do to help stop his bleeding because they don’t have bandages or a drip to stabilise him,” he says. “I asked them to phone an ambulance to take him to hospital.
“They told me to forget about an ambulance because it never responds to emergency situations. I was left with no choice when I realised his health was deteriorating. I had to drive him to Philadelphia Provincial Hospital in Dennilton, about 15km away from the village.”
At the hospital they didn’t waste any time when they saw Prince’s state. He drove towards casualty where emergency staff met him with a stretcher. He then drove his car to a visitor’s parking and rushed back into the hospital. But it was too late. His brother was dead from hypovolemic shock. He simply lost too much blood.
HARD TO ACCEPT
His little brother that he’d talked to just that morning was now covered with a white sheet on a hospital bed. “They opened his mouth to show me his tongue that had turned dry. I saw he was dead. I waited in the consulting room asking myself a lot of questions without answers, with my face buried in my hands.”
He says it wasn’t long before the police came and took a statement. A forensic pathologist also came. “They opened the sheet to show me how deep the cut was. I then performed a cultural practice of talking to him, the deceased. I told him they are now taking him to Groblersdal mortuary. I went home to break the sad news to my family and his friends. Joyce was so shocked she fainted when she heard the news.”
THE HARDEST PART
He then had to tell their father that his son was dead. The 69-year-old France is still shaken. “Why did the nurses fail to save my son’s life? They are a disgrace and a shame. How does a clinic not have a bandage?” France intends to take legal action against the Department of Health so that no other villager experiences what they did.
“The nurses are entrusted with taking care of our lives.” William wishes he could turn back time. At Billy’s funeral, he described Billy as a friendly and loving person. “On that day I left him painting and went to the tuck shop, just a walk away from home. To my surprise when I arrived home, I was shocked to see so much blood,” he says.
“I was heartbroken and deeply hurt some hours later to learn from his brother that my friend passed away. I still can’t believe he is dead.” Billy’s daughter, Kgahliso Angel Thaga (8) is a Grade 2 learner at Ramonokane Primary School and now wants to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help people like her dad. Kgahliso’s mom Joyce Ngwato (36) says her daughter was traumatised. “My child cried almost every day for about a week. She wrote a note the day before they laid her father to rest saying, ‘I wonder who’s going to buy me Christmas clothes?’.”
Limpopo health department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the department has appointed a team to establish the circumstances leading to the death of the patient. The findings will assist the department on the proper action to be taken.
He rubbished claims that the clinic didn’t have basic first aid kits. “The clinic is up and running and has the basic health care necessities to operate. “Indeed the deceased visited Kwarrielaagte Clinic with a severe injury on his arm on 17 August 2019 in the company of his family members. According to the preliminary report, the patient was unconscious when he arrived at the clinic.
“After realising that the patient is a priority one patient who needed serious attention looking at the severity of the injury, the nurses then advised the family to rush the patient to hospital so that he may get to be attended as an emergency case. There was no ambulances available at the clinic at the time. The patient lost his life on arrival at the hospital.”