Hospital fails to inform family of mother’s death for more than two months

Hospital fails to inform family of mother’s death for more than two months

The children of Nomsa Petshe are still reeling from the shock after hearing for the first time on Friday that their beloved mother, who was admitted to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital on 5 August 2020, had passed away on the same day.

For two months and eighteen days, they heard not one word from the hospital regarding the condition of their mother, despite leaving not one, but two cell phone contact numbers on her patient file upon her admission to the hospital.

Both the son and daughter tried to visit her in hospital on more than one occasion, but they were turned away due to the Covid-19 regulations. Their attempts to get feedback from staff working at the hospital, who committed to finding their mother and reporting her condition to them, never yielded results.

That is, until they received a call from a hospital staff member on Friday to inform them that their mother was dead.

The hospital worker who phoned them tried to intimate that the hospital’s failure to communicate the mother’s death was actually the fault of the ambulance staff, saying they had lost the patient file, but the son had travelled in the ambulance with his mother, and had seen the paramedic handing the file with their contact details over at the hospital.

Had the patient file really been lost, the hospital would not have been able to contact the family on Friday. This gross negligence and the consequent hurt it has caused the family is inexcusable.

I will write to the MEC for Health, Sindiswa Gomba, to request that a full investigation into the matter be launched. Furthermore, an official apology to the family is the very least that the hospital and Department can undertake to give.

If there is no satisfactory explanation for how this devastating injustice occurred, I will write to the Human Rights Commission to request a full investigation into the matter. There may very well be other families who have suffered the same devastation.

The Department of Health must never lose sight of the fact that, while we all understand that death is a part of life, the manner in which the news of a death is imparted to loved ones must always be compassionate and respectful.

Contacting a family two and a half months after the fact is neither of these.

Note to Editors: You can download sound clips in English and Afrikaans from Jane Cowley, MPL.