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Corpse goes missing at Bara Hospital

corpse

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found maladministration and improper conduct by Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital after it failed to report the death of a man and loss of his corpse.

The Public Protector on Monday released a report into allegations of maladministration and improper conduct by the hospital after a Gauteng family has still not been able to bury the late Themba Milton Sithebe almost eight years later.

The deceased was a father of four and lived in Thembelihle, Ennerdale.

According to the report, the hospital lost the corpse and informed the family of the man’s death four years later. However, no information on the whereabouts of the deceased’s remains was provided.

The nurse responsible, who was team leader of Medical Ward 24 where Sithebe was treated and on duty at the time, failed to ensure all the requisite information on the death notification report was completed and to inform the next of kin of his death, reads the report.

During the investigation, the nurse said she could no longer remember the finer details of what transpired on the day Sithebe passed away as Ward 24 was a 68-bed section.

“She, however, conceded that her failure to notify the family of the deceased about the death constituted an omission on her part. This was despite the fact that she only became aware of the missing body six years after the incident occurred,” reads the report.

The hospital, through the nurse, was found to have violated the Constitution, the Births and Deaths Registration Act, the hospital’s nursing service guidelines, regulations relating to the management of human remains, and those on the rendering of forensic pathology services.

The hospital was also found to have acted in a manner that was inconsistent with the preamble and purpose statement of the code of ethics for nursing practitioners.

“Baragwanath failed to ensure all the requisite information was completed on the death notification report of Mr Sithebe and also failed to inform the next of kin and/ or the Saps of the death of Mr Sithebe,” Mkhwebane said in her report.

“Similarly, Baragwanath upon being made aware of the failure by the staff to follow due process in the handling of Mr Sithebe’s corpse, also failed to take any action against the officials implicated.”

Mkhwebane has directed the acting head of the provincial department of health, Arnold Lesiba Malotana, and hospital CEO Dr Nkele Lesia to initiate disciplinary steps against the nurse.

She further directed Malotana and Lesia to see to it that a registration system is put in place at the hospital within 60 days of the date of the report.

“It [the register system] must contain information indicating the full names and designations of officials at the wards and detailed information regarding who is responsible for patients from entry to the exit in the wards. They must also ensure that hospital staff are trained on the data register, specifical compliance with the completion of the register.

“The training must also touch on the monitoring and evaluation of the data register at all hospital wards. Staff must further be trained on the hospital nursing service guidelines, specifically the completion of death notification reports and the process of reporting of deaths to the families of the deceased and unclaimed, unidentified bodies at the hospital to the police.”

Malotana and Lesia must report on steps taken regarding the Public Protector’s directives and further apologize in writing to Sithebe-Dlamini for the hospital’s failure to inform her about the death of her uncle and the subsequent loss of his body.

-The Citizen

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