A stench at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Phoenix, Durban, led to the discovery of a patient's decomposing body in the hospital's ceiling on Friday.
According to IOL, the body was that of a mentally ill patient who tried to escape and got stuck. The patient had reportedly been missing since last Monday.
Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thulani Zwane told News24 that police were called to the hospital on Friday following the discovery of the body. "I can't confirm whether it was the body of a patient. Police are still investigating," Zwane said.
According to the Phoenix Sun, a strong smell led to the discovery of the body. A worker who did not want to be named told that publication: "I could not put my finger on what it was and where the smell came from. At first, we thought that the smell had to do with the water supply interruption we had experienced, but the water supply interruption was fixed [and] the bad smell persisted.
"It was on Friday that security guards were called in to follow where the smell was coming from. The guards broke open the ceiling and made the horrifying discovery of a body," the employee reportedly said.
The local paper quoted Phoenix SAPS communications officer, Captain Louise Naidoo, as saying the deceased was seemingly trying to escape the hospital when he was trapped in the ceiling.
According to the Sunday Tribune, there was still some confusion as to how he got into the ceiling.
"We don't understand how he got in there because somebody would have noticed him trying to get in or there would have been a staircase or ladder leading to it. The hospital does not know who he is as his face is disfigured," a source told the publication.
Spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Ncumisa Mafunda, told the Sunday Tribune the department was shocked and concerned by this "gruesome discovery".
"The matter has been reported to the police, who have begun an investigation. The department would not like to comment further and would like to allow the police investigation process to continue unhindered," Mafunda reportedly said.
Acting chairman of the hospital board, Pastor Mervyn Reddy, has reportedly urged patients and community members to remain calm in light of the discovery.
Speaking to the Phoenix Tabloid, Reddy said: "Intense investigations are under way to determine whether the decomposed corpse of the man, believed to be about 35 years old, that was found in the ceiling, is that of a patient. That will take some time to establish.
"There are concerns of negligence that have since emerged from the public, but I want to reassure patients and the Phoenix community that Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital is functioning as normal.
"There is no need to panic. This tragic incident does not compromise the service delivery provided by this healthcare facility and does not prove that there was any negligence on the part of the hospital. Let us not create animosity, but rather await the facts in this case," said Reddy.
Staff burnt out
In November 2017, News24 reported that, during a visit by a team of officials from the Department of Health, it was found that the male medical wards, converted for eight mental health patients, instead accommodated up to 16 patients. There were no specialist psychiatrists at the hospital.
Staff at the obstetrics and gynaecology wards were found to be burnt out due to a high number of patients, with a high turnover rate of midwives. Deliveries were between 550 and 620 a month.
The team also found that the on-call doctors' beds had unchanged linen, there was dirty crockery, and rubbish bins were overflowing.
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter