Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela on Wednesday asked the Free State Health Ombudsman to urgently investigate a complaint that provincial health authorities reneged on an undertaking to compensate a woman, whose child was allegedly stabbed to death four years ago while admitted to the provincial psychiatric hospital. He was allegedly stabbed by another patient.
“We are saddened by your story and we are sorry about what happened to your son. This matter should be given to the Ombudsman to establish exactly what happened and what should have happened,” said the Public Protector. “Cases like this should not drag so that the family finds closure and does not have to re-live the trauma.”
The woman told the Public Protector that officials from the department arrived at her house three months after the incident and persuaded her to drop a civil claim she had instituted against authorities, promising her “a better offer.”
She further alleged that she was yet to find out what came out of an investigation instituted by then MEC, Elisa Mabe, into the matter. In addition to requesting Ombudsman Adv. Toto Belot to investigate, the Public Protector asked the provincial Department of Social Development to dispatch a psychologist to provide counselling to the family.
She said the complaint highlighted the problem of security within public health care facilities. The complaint came up during the Public Protector’s meeting with stakeholders in Bloemfontein.
The meeting was part of her office’s National Stakeholder Dialogue, which focuses on strengthening government’s ability to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals, placing special emphasis on improving healthcare services and eradicating poverty.
Other members of the public complained about apparent discrimination against HIV and AIDS patients at health care facilities. However, officials explained that this was an unintended occurrence as services were segregated in cubicles, and people knew which cubicle was for which treatment. The Public Protector also heard about a mortuary that was in a poor condition, with a stink that affected staff.
More complaints, which were common across provinces, related to ambulance and patient transport services and rude staff. The plight of community health care givers once again came to the fore, with some complaining that they were not getting the necessary support in terms of salaries and essentials such as gloves.
One community health care giver complained that they were expected to render services in various villages at their own travel expense when they only got a stipend of R1 400 a month. Some of the villages they had to travel to were seven to 14 kilometers away, he said.
Complaints relating to alleged nepotism and irregular issuing of tenders, including exclusion of locals that are equally competent and have done similar work before, were also made. A local alleged that the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality only employed people from outside its jurisdiction to the exclusion of residents.
Some locals were also not happy with the services of the South African Social Security Agency, Home Affairs and the provincial Department of Human Settlements. Thaba Nchu residents felt neglected, complaining about street lighting, health care clinics, water and general infrastructure.
Earlier the Public Protector and her Deputy, Adv. Kevin Malunga, visited the Bloemfontein National Hospital, where they observed unhygienic conditions. Apart from dirty surroundings, toilets in some sections of the facility were blocked, eliciting patient complaints about the “stink”. The Deputy Public Protector was particularly disturbed by what he termed “appalling conditions” when it came to cleanliness at the hospital.
Hospital management, however, attributed some of the problems to the aged piping system. There were staff and medical equipment shortages at the hospital, though not as acute as at other facilities that the Public Protector has been to before. Occasional shortages of medicine and surgical consumables were also reported.
The Public Protector was approached by kitchen staff employed in a labour-broking set up, with pathetic earning. They wanted better salaries and asked to be integrated into the hospital workforce. On a positive note, the Public Protector was impressed to learn that the hospital has not had a maternal death in four years and last had an infant death in June 2012.
The Public Protector will conclude the dialogue on Thursday when she meets with the provincial legislature at 10h00. She will use the opportunity to report her observations to the house.
For more information contact:
Spokesperson for Public Protector South Africa
Cell: 079 507 0399
Tel: 012 366 7006
Tollfree: 0800 11 20 40