Damning report on death of Shonisani Lethole at Tembisa Hospital

I am shocked at the damning findings by the Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Mokgoba on the death of Mr. Shonisani Lethole at the Tembisa Hospital on 30 June last year.

It reveals a failure at every level, including denial of food for more than four days, poor record-keeping, falsified information, and general negligence that contributed to his death from Covid-19 complications.

Unbelievably, neither Mr Lethole or his family were informed of his positive Covid-19 test.

The National Health Minister initiated Professor Makgoba’s investigation after a public outcry caused by a tweet by Lethole that he had not received any food at the hospital.

I agree with Makgoba’s finding that Tembisa Hospital should never have been designated for Covid-19 patients as it was not adequately resourced. As he puts it:

“It was not fit for purpose. The infrastructure was defective, the hospital was understaffed, the staff lacked the requisite experience and high-quality skills necessary to care for critically ill patients.”

These problems were well-known at the time when I questioned why Tembisa Hospital had been designated for Covid-19 patients.

The sad reality is that most public hospitals in Gauteng are poorly prepared to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic because of years of mismanagement, under-staffing and lack of equipment.

I suspect that Mr Lethole’s case is the tip of the ice-berg of many more cases of sub-standard care in our hospitals that has increased the mortality from Covid-19.

There needs to be accountability for what has been uncovered in Makgoba’s excellent report, but it should also serve as a wake-up call that there are longstanding problems in our public hospitals that need to be fixed urgently to ensure a decent health service.