Deception at Tower Hospital must be investigated

The solitary confinement cells at Tower Hospital which, the DA-delegation was assured, was not used for patients because the rooms do not meet Mental Health Care standards or the standards of SASOP and the locks are broken.

The DA is deeply disturbed and concerned about the well-choreographed show that was presented to a DA delegation that visited the Tower Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Beaufort on Monday 12 March 2018. It became clear to us that the hospital was cleaned up and prepared for the visit.

We agree with the article published in Rapport on Sunday, 11 March, in which it was reported how workers were made to clean up the facility until after midnight in preparation for a visit to the facility by Health MEC Phumza Dyantyi last week.

The DA will not be deceived and we call on the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) to continue with their reported plans to do a thorough investigation into the true state of affairs.

We want patients to be interviewed in-depth and a full report on the state of the hospital – beyond visits from parliamentarians and other interested parties.

During our visit on Monday, my colleague Patricia Kopane MP, DA Shadow Minister of Health, and I met with the hospital’s management team who escorted us around the buildings.

We were taken to inspect the solitary confinement cells and assured that patients were not housed in them because they do not meet Mental Health Care standards or the standards of SASOP and the locks are broken.

We were escorted to a ward filled with state of the art new beds. Much to our surprise, we found a linen room filled with new looking garments, more sheets and clothing than I have seen in bigger hospitals and full fridges with separate storage for meat, milk, fresh produce, eggs and shelves packed with loaves of bread.

However, we did find the following issues strange:

  • Claims were made that the hospital uses a “provincial menu”. No description of this menu was provided, nor was there any evidence of a menu or of meals being prepared despite us being there at 14:15 and when dinner was said to be served at 17:30;
  • We were given hair nets on entry into the kitchen and the only staff member present did not wear an apron or any regulation safety-shoes. This is a health and safety violation.  These items were also not visible in the linen room;
  • We were not given any opportunity to interact with the 323 patients. All we saw were some patients digging around in a scrawny vegetable patch while the others just looked bored;
  • We were contacted by local residents when they became aware of our visit. They expressed their outrage that it is all merely a deceptive façade and window-dressing;
  • Allegations were made that patients are given thin chicken soup and that the staff take the food stocked in the hospital kitchen to their homes; and
  • On our arrival there were no guards at the hospital gates, only a small child who, instead of being at school, seemed to have been placed there to warn the officials.

What was presented to the DA was fake, curated by officials of the Department of Health who put their jobs before their duties to their patients.

This is an absolute disgrace and suggests that there is a powerful pack of managers who will overwork their staff on a Sunday night because they, the managers, have neglected a group of the most vulnerable people in our province and instead embarked on window-dressing to save their skins.

These actions equal the Life Esidemeni dereliction of duty.

The DA will not rest until we can honestly say that the patients at Tower Hospital are treated with dignity. In a DA-led province, we will bring total change to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society have access to the best care possible. — Celeste Barker MPL, Shadow MEC for Health 

For more pictures of the facilities at Tower Hospital as presented to our delegation, see below: