Calls for action against Tembisa Hospital management over Lethole death

It's been found that several doctors lied about the time of Shonisani Lethole's death and left out crucial evidence in the investigation into the case.

FILE: Tembisa Hospital. Picture: Louise McAuliffe/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG - There were calls on Thursday for the immediate suspension of Tembisa Hospital management after the death of Shonisani Lethole.

Lethole died at the facility in July last year after being admitted with breathing difficulties.

The Health Ombudsman on Wednesday released a report which outlined how Lethole was not fed by the hospital staff for more than 100 hours and recommended that action be taken against all 19 staff members implicated.

It was also found that several doctors lied about the time of his death and other crucial evidence.

One of those implicated in the report is Tembisa Hospital chief executive, Dr Lekopane Mogaladi.

On 2 July, Eyewitness News exclusively spoke to Mogaladi. At the time, he said Lethole had refused to eat.

“He was actually offered tea with bread and because it was late at night and declined, saying he was going to sleep. In the morning he was offered breakfast and ate the food. At lunch, he was offered lunch and he politely told the lady, ‘At home, I eat a lot of meat from the first of the month to the last of the month.’”

The hospital CEO even went as far as to claim that Lethole had managed to smuggle chicken into the hospital.

“Security called him, as the place was out of bounds from everybody, to say there was a visitor for the patient. The visitor had a bag he was trying to deliver to the patient. Upon opening the bag, we found Nandos. We found food from Nandos.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) called for an urgent and independent forensic report into the scandal and for urgent disciplinary inquiry against Mogaladi and the accounting officer.

At the same time, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng also called for accountability.

The party’s Jack Bloom on Thursday said the report, which found evidence of medical negligence on the part of Tembisa Hospital, should also serve as a wake-up call and that there were longstanding problems in South Africa’s public hospitals that needed to be fixed urgently to ensure decent health services.

Bloom said he agreed with Professor Makgoba’s findings that Tembisa Hospital should never have been designated for COVID-19 patients as it was not adequately resourced.

“This happens in a lot of public hospitals and we need to look at all our public hospitals to ensure there are proper circumstances in which people are treated. I hope the recommendations are carried out. It’s really far more widespread than this and it just highlights how deep-rooted the problems are in our public health sector.”

The Health Ombudsman has recommended that 19 staff, including doctors and nurses, face disciplinary action over the role they played in Lethole's treatment and subsequent death.

Meanwhile, his family has called a virtual briefing with the media which was due to take place at 9.30am on Thursday.

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