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SAHRC to provide legal help to woman tied up at Mamelodi Hospital

31 May 2019 - 14:35 By Nonkululeko Njilo

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Friday it planned to provide legal assistance to Martha Marais, a 76-year-old woman who was poorly treated and tied to a steel bench at Mamelodi Hospital.

The elderly woman's plight came to light after several pictures and videos surfaced on social media, and were met with immediate outrage.

The commission's spokesperson Buang Jones said it had initiated a "own accord" investigation. 

"We want to provide legal assistance to the family. We want to demand answers from the MEC of health and the CEO of the hospital because this happened under his/her watch. Part of our mandate is to hold the government accountable," said Jones.

He said there had been a clear violation of Marais' human rights, and that there was clear humiliation and victimisation. 

This follows a visit by the newly appointed health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, on Thursday, who said the department was investigating and action would be taken against those involved.

Masuku gave the hospital at least 72 hours to hand over its report into the incident.

"We must maintain the dignity of our patients and our officials should maintain high levels of professionalism. At face value, it appears that the patient was ill-treated and the standard operating procedure was not followed," said Masuku.

While the commission vowed to hold the authorities accountable, it also called for the staff members involved to be dealt with.

"Someone has to account, there needs to be appropriate action taken against the staff members responsible for this," said Jones.

Virginia Keppler, spokesperson for the Marais family, said it would open cases against the staff involved in the incident as well as the Gauteng health department on Friday.

Following the incident, a number of people have come forward to report alleged negligence taking place in public hospitals in the province.

Jones said the commission intended to conduct a number of site inspections at hospitals next month.

"We have also received a number of complaints about the deplorable conditions at Dr George Mukhari Hospital, Pretoria," he said.