Soldier in hospital for psychiatric evaluation 'stabs another patient'

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  • A Bloemfontein-based SA National Defence Force soldier deployed in the Eastern Cape allegedly stabbed and wounded a patient at Bhisho Hospital on Monday.
  • The 25-year-old soldier was admitted to the hospital as a suspected acute psychosis patient after he was arrested by the police earlier that day. 
  • The soldier allegedly went on a rampage, assaulting and wounding another soldier with a spade.

A Bloemfontein-based SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldier deployed in the Eastern Cape on a secret mission, allegedly stabbed and wounded a patient at Bhisho Hospital on Monday after he was hospitalised for apparently suffering a mental breakdown. 

The incident happened after the 25-year-old soldier, whose name is known to News24, had been admitted to the hospital as a suspected acute psychosis patient following his arrest by the police earlier that day. 

The soldier had been surrounded and restrained by 12 police officers and taken to the hospital for a 72-hour psychiatric observation after he allegedly went on the rampage, assaulting a sleeping soldier with a spade, News24 understands. 

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That soldier sustained a gash on his forehead and was taken to Grey Hospital for treatment.

He has since opened an assault case at the King William's Town police station following the incident. 

The attack occurred at a well-known guesthouse in Wood House Road, King William's Town, where a number of soldiers reside.

The soldier allegedly gained entry into the room of his sleeping colleague by breaking down the door with a spade before using the same tool to bash his fellow soldier's head open.

Damage

A police incident report puts the costs of the damage caused by the spade at R8 000. 

According to the police report, the complainant stated he was asleep when he heard a breaking sound.

"He noticed that it was one of his colleagues who broke down his bedroom door with a spade. He started to attack him with a spade as a result and he suffered an open wound to his forehead," it read.  

News24 was told by police sources that six police vans descended on the bed and breakfast after they were called by terrified soldiers. 

Eastern Cape police said the soldier had allegedly suffered a mental breakdown.

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Police spokesperson Colonel Sibongile Soci said a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm was being investigated by King William's Town detectives.

"SAPS can confirm that police attended to the complaint on 22 March at about 08:30 where it was alleged that a 25-year-old man attacked the persons he was sharing the residence with, [injuring him].

"The attacker, who is said to have suffered a mental breakdown, was taken to a nearby hospital where it is further alleged that while at hospital, he also attacked a patient. No case was opened following that incident," added Soci. 

Nurses at the 205-bed Bhisho Hospital told News24 the soldier allegedly attacked a patient after they were placed in the same ward.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA said it had been pleading for years with the Department of Health to build a separate ward at the hospital for psychosis patients.

Unstable

Its provincial secretary, Khaya Sodidi, added mentally unstable patients posed a danger to other patients.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo, however, denied the victim was a medical patient. 

It was government policy that people who were suspected to be suffering from mental illness were admitted for 72-hour observation at a district hospital first, he said. 

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"The two patients were both in the psychiatric observation ward as they both came with psychosis, psychiatric patients are not mixed with medical patients." 

Kupelo added the soldier was taken by the SANDF to a military base in Bloemfontein, the Free State, on Wednesday. 

The wounded patient, who sustained minor lacerations, was currently in a stable condition, he said.

Investigation

The head of the SANDF's communication division, Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi, said the defence force had instituted an investigation into the incident.

He added the soldier was part of a group deployed to King William's Town on an undisclosed mission.

Mgobozi said the soldiers, from Bloemfontein, were not in the town to enforce lockdown regulations.

He added lockdown operations were called off on 28 February 2021 across the country and there were no soldiers currently on the streets enforcing regulations.

"I can confirm that the incident happened, and the soldier is one of our soldiers from Bloemfontein. We have instituted an investigation into the issue," said Mgobozi.

Meanwhile, News24 has reliably learnt the soldiers have been in King William's Town for more than a year.
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