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Community demands MEC disband board at 'death trap' hospital following maggot video

08 July 2019 - 17:42 By Orrin Singh
RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth, south of Durban, has come under scrutiny following a video which went viral showing maggots in the mouth of a patient
RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth, south of Durban, has come under scrutiny following a video which went viral showing maggots in the mouth of a patient

A civil society-led group comprised of concerned residents is calling for the board of RK Khan Hospital in Chatsworth, south of Durban, to be removed. 

Members of the RK Khan's Action Committee (RKKAC), headed by Visvin Reddy, commonly known in his capacity as national convenor of PAPPI (People Against Petrol Price Increases), has labelled the public hospital a "death trap", where people come to die rather than get better. 

He spoke to TimesLIVE outside RK Khan following a meeting between hospital personnel and the MEC for health in the province, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, on Monday which the group "hijacked".  

Their concerns have been fueled by outrage following news last week that a 52-year-old man, Sadek Ebrahim, who died, was found with maggots in his mouth after being admitted for an operation related to gangrene in his leg.

In a media statement, RKKAC said its members had embarked on an impromptu, unannounced visit to the hospital and held discussions with patients and nurses last week. 

 According to RKKAC, the following was allegedly seen and reported:

  • Over 40 patients were seen lying on mattresses in the casualty department waiting for beds to become available. 
  • A used sanitary pad was seen lying on the toilet floor. 
  • The general hospital condition was poor. 
  • Nurses said that at any given time the hospital is severely short-staffed and absenteeism is high because they are overworked and suffer fatigue. 
  • There are many unfilled vacancies at the hospital because of a lack of funding. 

Reddy said they have given the MEC two weeks to respond to their calls to have the board disbanded, alternatively the community would assign its own board that would run parallel to the hospital leadership. 

"We are calling on her to remove this dysfunctional board and replace it with one that is accepted by the community. Failing to do so will be met with sustained protest action until this demand is met." 

He alleged that the hospital board was unknown and appointed covertly without any input from the community. 

"They are ineffective and incompetent and must be replaced immediately. Because of this, they remain a toothless body serving only to be praise singers for the hospital and ignoring the many challenges that hinder proper healthcare," he said. 

Meanwhile, the chair of the hospital board, Reverend Cyril Pillay, is reported to have called for an "independent investigation" following Ebrahim's death. 

Pillay said he sympathised with the family, saying the infestation should not have happened.

Simelane-Zulu said the staffing issue was a major problem for the province. 

"Over and above the issue of health being a priority in the province - because it is number one on the priority list in the province - we will not be able to provide proper healthcare services if we do not have enough staff."

Simelane-Zulu said she was engaging closely with Premier Sihle Zikalala on how to properly staff the hospitals and clinics in the province. The biggest challenge that the province is faced with is the fact that we don't have money, and that is a fact."

She said the provincial government would need to pull funds from other departments in order to lend support to health.  

Simelane-Zulu added that it was unacceptable and that no excuse would be valid for what had happened to Ebrahim. 

"We can't accept that in a public hospital someone will come and be in that situation and even die in that situation. Can you imagine the discomfort that poor old man must have been going through?"

She said health was a right afforded to every South African and that hospital staff and management took an oath to take care of those admitted to hospital. 

A preliminary report from the department's investigation into Ebrahim's death is expected to be finalised this week. 

Meanwhile his son, Azaad Ebrahim, said he would be taking legal action and seeking counsel from the South African Human Rights Commission.