Gauteng Health MEC claims no delay in combating Tembisa Hospital corruption

I am astounded that Gauteng Health and Wellness MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko claims there has been “no delay” in disciplining officials and blacklisting companies implicated in the Tembisa Hospital corruption that murdered whistleblower Babita Deokaran tried to stop.

Replying to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, the MEC said the disciplinary hearing of Tembisa hospital CEO Ashley Mthunzi, and Chief Financial Officer Lerato Madyo, will commence on 9 October 2023.

This is more than a year after they were suspended on 26 August 2022.

The MEC says six officials at Tembisa Hospital have been suspended and “the Investigating Officer is in the process of finalising charges.” This lags the SIU investigation report which recommended they be disciplined in December last year.

Concerning the “Justice for Babita” petition, which demands the blacklisting of 224 companies implicated in irregular payments by the Tembisa Hospital, the MEC says: “Blacklisting can only be done after the outcome of the investigation; however, measures have been put in place to ensure there is no re-occurrence and not to procure to the affected companies.”

The DA welcomes this restriction which is long overdue as some of these companies were still getting hospital contacts late last year.

I hope there are no further delays in disciplining officials and laying criminal charges in this matter.

The key thing is to get the masterminds as well as the accomplices to ensure real justice for Babita.


Mystery of eight missing Life Esidimeni patients

The mystery about eight Life Esidimeni patients who are missing continues to be of concern as the Gauteng Health Department still cannot trace them.

According to a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature, there are no files for four of the eight missing patients.

The Department has made extensive efforts to find the patients, including checks with Home Affairs and SASSA to see if they had applied for IDs or received a disability grant. In some cases there are no ID numbers or dates of birth.

Missing person cases have been opened with the South African Police Service, and the Department is continuously checking for the patients in all facilities in case new information emerges.

Mokgethi says that search efforts are continuing but “it is difficult and time consuming to trace patients if information of the patients is not provided or available.” Furthermore, the telephone numbers of family members and home addresses provided are incorrect.

It is nearly five years since the transfers of patients from Life Esidimeni to illegal NGOs in June 2016, so it is unlikely that any of the missing patients are still alive.

The terrible possibility is that some of the missing patients died at the NGOs, but we will never know as their bodies may have been secretly disposed of.

There have been 144 confirmed deaths, but the true Esidimeni death toll should probably include the eight patients whose fate is currently unknown.

184 Gauteng Health staff have businesses that deal with Government

184 staff who work for the Gauteng Health Department (GHD) have their own private businesses that deal with government departments, including the GHD.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

These employees were identified by the Gauteng Audit Service and the Auditor General’s 2018/19 Report.

They are involved in a wide range of businesses, including medical supplies, food, events management, health publishing, emergency care, security and funeral services.

It is not presently known how many GHD staff get business from the Department itself. According to Masuku, “a detailed report has been requested from the Head of Department. A deadline of Monday the 14th October 2019 has been given. Once the information has been provided it will be forwarded to the legislature.”

I am concerned that employees doing business with their own department has taken so long to uncover. This is highly irregular in a department that has suffered many corruption scandals.

I look forward to the detailed report that has been promised, which should be followed by strict discipline of staff who are caught out in this matter.

1117 unidentified bodies in Gauteng mortuaries

1117 out of 17940 bodies in Gauteng’s 10 forensic pathology mortuaries were unidentified in the last financial year which ran from April 2018 to March 2019.

This information has been revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

An additional 18 bodies were identified but not claimed by family.

This is a vast human tragedy that deserves higher attention.

The largest number of unidentified bodies was at the Johannesburg mortuary (360), followed by Germiston (115), Roodepoort (107), Diepkloof (106) and Springs (105).

Unidentified bodies were as follows at other mortuaries:

Garankuwa 73
Pretoria 71
Heidelberg 18
Bronkhorstspruit 16
Carletonville 10

Most of the deaths are due to crime and road accidents. It is tragic that many families do not know the fate of their loved ones because they have been buried anonymously after suffering a violent death.

Some of the 9 Life Esidimeni patients who are still missing may have suffered this fate.

I have been asking questions on unidentified bodies for many years and the number has risen alarmingly, with a poor response by the Department, which has been struggling since 2006 to develop an internet system that will assist in people identifying bodies.

Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu promised that this internet site would be running in 2016.

Masuku’s response is that ‘the functionality of the internet site will be possible once the mortuary information system is set, which is anticipated for the end of October 2019.’ The internet site ‘is contemplated to be operational at the beginning of 2020/21 financial year.’

I hope that this promise is kept so that bodies can be identified on the internet, rather than relatives going to each mortuary, which is traumatic and time-consuming.

85 000 patients treated at Bara hospital casualty

The casualty department at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital treated 84 846 patients last year, which is about 7000 patients a month.

These shocking figures are revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Legislature.

The breakdown of cases is as follows:

  • Trauma 25 674
  • Surgery 14 232
  • Orthopaedics 16 668
  • Medical 28 284

There were 22 238 cases treated for violence and road accidents, broken down as follows:

  • Gunshots 1033
  • Stabbing 3276
  • Road accidents 4406
  • Burns 1605
  • Assaults 4238
  • Other injuries 7677

There were also 3597 psychiatric cases, 1298 cases of organophosphate poisoning, and 45 suicides by hanging.

These terrible figures are comparable to the injuries in a war zone. Gunshot injuries have gone up from 949 in 2017 to 1033 in 2018, and stabbing wounds from 3235 in 2017 to 3276 last year.

This curse of violence in our society is often fueled by alcohol.

A small sign of hope is that assault injuries at the hospital went down from 5052 in 2017 to 4238 in 2018, and road accident victims down from 4637 to 4406.

Effective action to bring down crime and road accidents would take a lot of strain off this hospital’s casualty ward, which must be one of the busiest in the world.

2500 patients wait for surgery at Steve Biko hospital

2500 patients are on the waiting lists for surgery at the Steve Biko Hospital, some of whom will wait up to two years for an operation.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my question in the Gauteng Legislature.

The worst wait is in Orthopaedics, where 600 patients will wait from 18 months to two years for a hip or knee operation.

Waiting time for Cardiothoracic surgery is two weeks, and General Surgery between 8 and 12 months.

According to Masuku, the reasons for long waiting lists include the following:

  • shortage of theatre trained nurses limits the number of theatres that can operate per day
  • shortage of ICU trained nurses limits the number of post-operative ICU beds
  • the high number of serious trauma cases affects planned elective surgical operations
  • budgetary constraints
  • patient referrals who should have been operated on at other hospitals

Surgery cases are also increasing because of an aging population and high trauma levels in society.

The real waiting times are actually longer than these official figures because patients can wait many months to see a specialist to put them on the waiting list.

More resources and better management is needed to cut surgery waiting times that cause much distress to patients.

4 out of 8 MRI machines broken in Gauteng state hospitals

Four of the eight Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines in Gauteng public hospitals are broken, leading to waiting times as long as 9 months for the diagnosis of hundreds of patients.

This is revealed in a written reply by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

The Chris Hani Baragwanath and George Mukhari hospitals each have two MRI machines, but can only rely on one machine as the other ones are broken.

The MRI machine at the Helen Joseph Hospital has been broken since March this year, and Steve Biko’s MRI machine broke down a month ago.

Kalafong hospital has a functioning MRI machine, and the sole MRI at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital is working but is very old and needs to be replaced urgently.

The worst situation is at Chris Hani Baragwanath where 607 patients are waiting 9 months for a MRI scan.

The situation at other hospitals is as follows:

  • Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg – 761 patients waiting for 7 months;
  • George Mukhari – 298 adult patients and 120 children waiting for 2 to 3 months;
  • Helen Joseph – current waiting time not given for 120 patients;
  • Kalafong Hospital – 40-50 patients wait between 5 days and two weeks; and
  • Steve Biko – 200 patients wait from 2 to 4 months.

MRI scans are a key diagnostic tool in modern medicine, but broken machines are causing extra suffering and life-threatening delays especially for cancer patients.

Speedy repairs and purchase of new equipment is vital for the effective functioning of our hospitals.

Frequently broken machines are another area of weakness that raises questions about government’s ability to implement its ambitious NHI plans.

DA welcomes health intervention by Human Rights Commission

The Democratic Alliance appreciates and welcomes the intervention by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which visited the Mamelodi Hospital yesterday following the shocking abuse of 76-year-old Martha Marais who was tied to a bench there for more than eight hours.

I am concerned by their finding of severe staff shortages and overcrowding which leads to poor service and low morale.

The lack of a full-time CEO aggravates the problems at the hospital.

I have also received many complaints of corruption at this hospital, including shoddy building work.

The Gauteng Health Department has failed to spend its full capital budget for many years despite the huge backlogs for maintenance and expansion of facilities.

Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku must be ruthless in rooting out corruption and he should ensure that competent personnel are put in key positions.

There is no time for half-measures and retention of incompetent comrades, otherwise more tragic health incidents will continue to occur.

The SAHRC’s recommendations should be implemented as soon as possible.

Esidimeni patients could’ve been found sooner, with political will

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the news that some of the missing Life Esidimeni patients have recently been found.

According to Gauteng Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, this was particularly due to information from the Home Affairs Department as the patients were receiving social grants.

This is yet another example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

I am puzzled however, that it took more than two years to find these patients. It confirms my impression that the Gauteng Health Department has been inexcusably slack in finding all the missing patients.

Last week Ramakgopa said that the department would be going back to Life Esidimeni to check on details of the patients who had been discharged.

Why was this not done earlier?

Ramakgopa says the police have also been involved, but this only occurred after I laid missing persons charges in January last year.


DA calls for Health MEC to act on death due to negligence

by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa needs to investigate and take action regarding the death of a young man who lay injured for four hours at the Goba Clinic in Katlehong which did not have oxygen and the ambulance came too late to save him.

At a sitting of the Gauteng Legislature yesterday I read out the Facebook post of Thando Khanya Mahlangu who details the incident in what he calls “the worst day of my life” (see full posting below).

His younger brother was hit by a speeding car on Saturday 24 November and rushed to Goba Clinic, but they had no oxygen.

An ambulance arrived after two hours but the paramedics were not sufficiently trained to assist, and another ambulance had to be called.

Mahlangu writes as follows:

“I blame the Gauteng health department coz they’ve failed us, how can a clinic have no oxygen? this shows nobody cares about us, and why wouldn’t they release another ambulance if the first one was being delayed? Do these people even Understand the word “Emergency”? No I doubt.

My brother had 4 hours and possibly 1000 chances to survive but because of the delays we lost him.

This really damaged me and I doubt I’ll ever recover.”

This heart-breaking story is unfortunately quite common as ambulances are generally slow, paramedics are not properly trained and clinics run short of basic necessities like oxygen.

I have written to MEC Ramokgopa requesting her to investigate this incident and take the required action.

Lives should not be lost because of the continuing failure of the Gauteng Health Department to provide a decent health service.

Facebook Post

Thando KhanYa Mahlangu is feeling heartbroken.

24 November 2018 — The worst day of my life

So it happened, around 09:20 my younger brother was hit by a speeding car and he was rushed to Goba clinic which is a minute away from the scene and he was immediately attended. I was informed and I also got there at around 09:25 and he was already in the emergency room bleeding heavily and struggling to breathe not responding at all. That’s where all things got messy, The clinic had no Oxygen we were told the ambulance is coming.

We waited an hour there was no ambulance we kept asking about its whereabouts we got no answers. We started panicking and decided to call the ambulance whilst we were inside the clinic they told us they can’t send the ambulance for a person who’s already inside the emergency room the
nurses should call it and there were no ambulances available. Another hour goes by still no ambulance, we drove to Hlahatsi to fetch the ambulance after we requested to take him to the hospital by ourselves and they said they are not allowed to release the patient unless they leave by an ambulance and we got the same response.

After 2 hours the ambulance appeared travelling at a very low speed, no siren and the driver was on the phone.

We were so relieved to see them and he would be rushed to the hospital for a better treatment but little did we know the worst was about to happen, The paramedics who arrived were not trained for patients who were so badly injured we were told so they had to call another ambulance that meant more delays.

To cut the long story short the other paramedics after another hour arrived too late coz on their arrival my brother gave up on life.

The nurses from Goba clinic tried their best to save his life. I blame the Gauteng health department coz they’ve failed us, how can a clinic have no oxygen? this shows nobody cares about us, and why wouldn’t they release another ambulance if the first one was being delayed? Do these people even Understand the word “Emergency”? No, I doubt.

My brother had 4 hours and possibly 1000 chances to survive but because of the delays we lost him.

This really damaged me and I doubt ill ever recover.