‘Suicide’ verdict rejected
SIX months after an 88-year-old patient died from third degree burns after falling into a tub of boiling water at Elim Hospital in Limpopo, an investigation has concluded that she may have committed suicide and the hospital staff who were fired for the incident have been reinstated.
The findings have not been accepted by Mujaji Manganyi’s family. She had been admitted to the hospital for an eye operation.
At the time of her death in February, Manganyi had been temporary blind due to the operation. She was, however, left to take a bath on her own.
The report was given to the family on Tuesday.
Manganyi’s case is one of the many reported cases in Limpopo’s Vhembe district where negligence or ailing infrastructure have been blamed for injuries and deaths.
In May, while admitted at Nkhensani Hospital in Giyani, 67yearold Mphephu Chabalala also suffered burns inside the hospital and later died.
The family said Chabalala was bathing unattended when she sustained second degree burns.
The provincial department of health described the incidents as “unfortunate situations” that could not be blamed on hospitals.
“In the case of Gogo Manganyi, according to our investigations, there was in no way that the department could be blamed, her death was an unfortunate situation but we cannot disclose exactly what happened. The people that were fired in regard to the incident were reinstated to work as there was no fault,” spokesperson Thabiso Tefu said.
The district’s health system came under the spotlight seven years ago when the Performance Assessment Report for the term 2008 to 2010 published by the Health Systems Trust said only two of Vhembe’s six district hospitals received satisfactory scores in line with the national standard, namely Malamulele and Donald Fraser District Hospital.
The four others, Elim, Siloam, Tshilidzini and Nkhensani hospitals, have not improved since the report was released and the health department made promises, community members said.
A patient, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fears of being victimised, related her ordeal of when she was admitted to Tshilidzini Hospital in August.
“On arrival there was no bed for me so I had to sleep on the floor while in pain. My mother brought me a blanket to lie on. There was no food and medication so I had to buy my medication at the pharmacy. I was so hurt by the conditions at that hospital because I did not know what to make of it,” she said.
When asked why patients are subjected to dire infrastructure, Tefu admitted that the department is faced with an infrastructure backlog.
“We are working on these issues, but there are issues that we are able to fix now such as issues of maintenance. For now we have to prioritise to look at what is needed for a hospital or clinic to run. We have a panel of contractors to deal with issues of infrastructure and renovations and many other issues that have to do with the infrastructure challenges that we have. We wish that we can fix most of these things but with regards to the challenges that we have in terms of financing, we have to prioritise,” Tefu said.
He said that issues of nurses ill treating patients is difficult to resolve as it involves attitude issues but they always recommend patients report these kind of incidents.
The Manganyi family threatened to take legal action against the department of health.
“Yesterday, we were given the report and they explained what happened to her on the day she got burnt. In conclusion they say that she was stressed and she might have committed suicide. What I can say is the report is not tangible and we will be contacting our lawyers on the matter,” grandson Jabu Manganyi said.
He said the family was meant to receive the report two weeks after her death but that did not happen.
“After running behind them asking for the report, the family was called to the hospital for a meeting regarding the report. When we got there we realised that they wanted to give us a verbal report but we refused and insisted that we get a written report.”
Manganyi said the family had not been offered counselling.
PROBED: Elim Hospital, where Mujaji Manganyi, 88, died after falling into a tub of boiling water. A probe concluded she might have committed suicide but her family is not happy.
MANY QUESTIONS: The family questions if Mujaji Manganyi’s death is a result of suicide or neglect.