DA calls for Gauteng probe into reported oxygen tanks 'delay' that allegedly led to three deaths

Workers at the Charlotte Maxeke hospital caused chaos when they protested over wages and performance bonuses owed to them. (PHOTO: Lucky Morajane)
Workers at the Charlotte Maxeke hospital caused chaos when they protested over wages and performance bonuses owed to them. (PHOTO: Lucky Morajane)

The DA has called for the Gauteng Department of Health to investigate whether a reported "delay" in the delivery of oxygen tanks led to three deaths in the Riverlea area.

"I am concerned that slow delivery of home oxygen tanks by a state contractor has reportedly led to at least three deaths in the Riverlea area in western Johannesburg since October last year," DA Gauteng spokesperson for health Jack Bloom said in a statement on Sunday.

Bloom's concern was based on the Bench Marks Foundation's local community monitor Charles van der Merwe, "who also says that power cuts due to load shedding and a backlog in gas tank delivery over the festive season imperilled at least seven Riverlea residents dependent on respirators".

The contractor was not named.

Bloom said two people were rushed to hospital and one is still in a critical condition after not receiving their oxygen tanks in December.

"Riverlea has a particular problem with lung diseases because of toxic chemicals and dust from nearby mining operations.

"I suspect that other state patients in Gauteng are also suffering because of delays with delivering home oxygen," Bloom added.

'Patients suffer badly'

Bloom further referred to a case at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, where a patient allegedly committed suicide after treatment problems that included a late delivery of oxygen.

"Patients with breathing problems suffer badly even with short oxygen breaks.

"The Gauteng health department needs to urgently investigate why there are problems with the company it contracts to deliver home oxygen to state patients," Bloom said.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said while the department has some internal challenges with the delivery of oxygen services in the province, especially in a few districts, it is not aware of any reports regarding Riverlea residents.

"According to RT72 Contract we are supposed to deliver oxygen within 24 hours after receiving the prescription of oxygen. After receiving the prescription of oxygen, we need to visit the home of the patient to assess the environment and confirm if it's the right address, there is electricity, give health education to the patient and family on how to use the home oxygen services as well as the precautions to be taken," she said.

"After that has been done, the prescription is sent to VitalAire for delivery of oxygen. We have not received any incidents or queries regarding Riverlea patients," she added.

Kekana urged the DA to share its information with the department so that it can follow up and intervene where needed.

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