The family of a teenage girl, whose body lay in the Northdale Hospital mortuary for a month after she went missing, blame the hospital for the delay in finding her.
Sanelisiwe Buthelezi (17) went missing on August 5, and was last seen on her way to her home in Ghandi Road, Northdale. After frantically searching for her, her family found her body at the Northdale Hospital mortuary on September 7.
Zama Buthelezi Zuma, Sanelisiswe’s older sister, said they received information on September 7 that the teenager had been assaulted with a garden fork on the day of her disappearance and taken away by an ambulance, which led them to look for her in local hospitals.
She died two days after she arrived at the hospital. A man has since been arrested.
Buthelezi Zuma said “What I found strange is that she was registered as an unknown person, despite the fact that the woman who had called the ambulance for her had given paramedics her contact numbers. The woman was never contacted about Sanelisiwe’s death.
“The police at Mountain Rise also told me that the hospital never reported her death to them.”
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Captain Gay Ebrahim confirmed that Northdale Hospital had failed to report Sanelisiwe’s death.
“Usually when an unknown person dies while in hospital, the hospital needs to report the death to the police to make the information readily available for relatives searching for their missing loved one.
“We had also made enquiries to Northdale Hospital about Sanelisiwe’s missing case, but they were unable to assist us.
“They were supposed to let us know as soon as she died, especially considering that it was an unnatural death,” said Ebrahim.
Ebrahim said a man accused of assaulting Sanelisiwe was arrested recently and is set to appear again in court on October 5.
Buthelezi Zuma said the second blow was that her sister’s death was recorded as a “natural death” but after a post mortem requested by the police was done, the cause of death was changed to “unnatural death” after it was found that Sanelisiwe had died due to her assault wounds.
“I was told that the initial report was a mistake by an intern doctor who had already left the hospital.
“That mistake could have resulted in Sanelisiwe’s attacker walking free,” she said.
Buthelezi Zuma said the hospital was “neglectful” and wonders how many other missing people are never found by their relatives due to state hospital staff not doing their jobs properly.
“I want answers. I want to know why the cause of her death was recorded wrong and why her death was never reported to the police. If she was reported to the police we could have found her sooner and laid her to rest sooner,” said Buthelezi Zuma.
Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health Ncumisa Mafunda said: “The passing away of any individual is always a sad and traumatic experience. To this end, and without prejudice, the department wishes to convey its deepest condolences to the affected family.
“The department also notes with concern an attempt by the newspaper to simplify and discuss in the public space confidential clinical patient(s) information, which is protected by law.
“It is always concerning when such attempts are made, because usually they are made without the benefit of accurate and relevant clinical information.
“This makes for a particularly difficult situation as government may not provide such information to a third party, in this case the media, in compliance with the law.”
Mafunda said, without elaborating, that the department has been informed by the hospital management that the facts at its disposal are contrary to what is being alleged in the media enquiry.
“Hospital management has already held a meeting with the next of kin of the deceased.
“However, should they wish to raise any further grievances or seek clarity with facility management, they are welcome to do so.”