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Man dies at Tembisa Hospital after ‘being denied food’

Shonisani Lethole was admitted with breathing complications about two weeks ago.

FILE: Tembisa Hospital. Picture: EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - A family whose son died at the Tembisa Hospital in Ekhuruleni wants answers from the health ministry after he was allegedly denied food for two days.

Shonisani Lethole was admitted with breathing complications about two weeks ago.

His family claimed that two days after his admission, the 35-year-old asked for food but wasn't given any.

His request for a wheelchair to move to the bathroom was also apparently ignored.

Lethole grew so desperate, he resorted to tweeting Health Minister Zweli Mkhize saying: “Mkhize can I respond to your tweets if the problems I have at one of your facilities continues, it’s becoming unbearable and they don’t seem to care. Didn’t eat for 48 hours.”

That tweet only drew comments from South Africans who were appalled by the situation.

Lethole’s girlfriend Mukundi Lambani could only communicate with him over the phone as hospital visits aren’t allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

She said he often complained about the conditions at Tembisa Hospital, calling it frightening.

“When we spoke, he said he was really having a hard time. He said they hadn’t fed him and said he was kept in a ward with other people who had passed on,” she said.

On Wednesday, Lambani received a call informing her that her boyfriend had died.

Lethole was tested for COVID-19 when he was admitted to the facility last week but died without receiving his results.

“At the hospital, he was having difficulty breathing and did COVID-19 tests when he got there and was still waiting for his results when we had found out that he had passed on.”

Lambani said she never got the chance to say goodbye to the love of her life: “The last time I spoke to him was that Friday, after that I wasn’t able to speak to him at all. They say he was sedated and that’s why he didn’t have his phone.”

Lambani, who is self-isolating and showing COVD-19 symptoms, may not be able to bury her boyfriend next week: “I’m doing my best, I am at home and I only tested because I suspected since I was in contact with him and showing flu-like symptoms.”

In their search for answers, the family managed to track down Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku who said the department would look into the matter.

The Gauteng Health Department said it would investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Lethole.

The department's Kwara Kekana said: “The matter was brought to the attention of the office of the MEC and was referred to the hospital CEO and management. The department will see all surrounding the incident with a quality assurance team and a detailed report will be provided to the family.”

The Health Department said it would meet with Lethole’s family before releasing its report into the matter.

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