Covid-19 patient goes missing at isolation facility in Nelson Mandela Bay

A patient has disappeared from a quarantine facility in the Eastern Cape.
A patient has disappeared from a quarantine facility in the Eastern Cape.
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  • The search is on for an elderly patient who disappeared from the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium Covid-19 isolation facility.
  • A security guard has been accused of deserting his post and has since been suspended.
  • The elderly patient's granddaughter, who is also a patient at the facility, has been left heartbroken by the news.

A security guard has been suspended after a Covid-19-positive patient disappeared from the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium's quarantine site in Port Elizabeth.

John Doch, 72, of Graaff-Reinet walked out of the 200-bed hospital on Friday afternoon after a guard allegedly deserted his post.  

Hospital operator, the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA), has reported the incident to the police, while the M Secure company suspended the guard. 

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Port Elizabeth police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensberg said the incident was reported to the police. "There is no formal case that has been opened at this stage. The matter was indeed reported to us."

Doch was one of 51 patients who were being treated at the facility when he disappeared, said MBDA spokesperson Luvuyo Banzi.   

"Currently, Mr Doch remains a missing person and the management team is in touch with the Mount Road police station, where the incident was reported."

'I am heartbroken'

Doch's granddaughter, Portia Doch, 26, who is also a patient at the facility, was too distraught to talk to News24 and was crying during the short telephone call. "I am heartbroken. I am in pain. Please give me some time."

Security services for the isolation facility were provided by M Secure, said Banzi.

The MBDA provided News24 with an incident report drafted by M Secure director Kaashief Niekerk who said two companies were responsible for security at the facility.

He added his company was responsible for internal security at the isolation facility, while another company, HRG, guarded the stadium's outer perimeter.

"It is deducted that Mr Doch passed the internal security checkpoint unnoticed as a result of the M Secure officer not being at his post. He then ended up on the outside of the building when an HRG security officer, who did not recognise him as a patient, subsequently allowed him to leave the stadium," said Niekerk.

HRG's managing director, Fred Erasmus, confirmed M Secure's version of events and vowed the incident would never happen again. 

'It has never happened before'

"It is really an unfortunate incident, from our company's point of view, the stadium put all the advanced technological security systems in place and they are good, but unfortunately there is a human factor involved.

"We are taking all necessary measures to make sure this incident doesn't happen again. It has never happened before," said Erasmus.

Niekerk said Doch left the stadium at 14:30 on Friday, but the incident was only reported to M Secure's management at 17:00 during the changing of shifts.

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"M Secure management immediately commenced searching the surrounding area as well as the known shelters housing the homeless.

"In addition, the incident was reported to the Mount Road police station who subsequently posted Mr Doch's info on the crime prevention social media [group]," he added.

The M Secure security officer has been suspended and action taken will be in line with company's disciplinary code. Corrective actions instituted include additional situation checks and the erection of security fencing between the building and outer perimeter gate.

The 42 000-seat stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup at a cost of R2 billion.

It was turned into a Covid-19 isolation facility in a joint operation between the provincial Department of Health, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and stadium this year.

The hospital facility is operated by the MBDA which reports directly to the Nelson Mandela Bay Covid-19 Disaster Management Joint Operations team.

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