Three years since nine patients died in the burns unit of the Dr George Mukhari Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, and the Gauteng provincial health department is yet to conclude the probe into the circumstances leading to the deaths.
The multimillion-rand facility was opened in November 2016 by then health MEC Qedani Mahlangu, but had to be closed down after the mysterious deaths which were blamed on inadequate ventilation.
The unit, built with a R3-million donation from the Smile Foundation and another R3 million from the department of infrastructure development, was closed barely three months after opening its doors due to the deaths.
Prior to its opening, medical experts allegedly warned that patients would die because of inadequate ventilation but some officials insisted the opening go ahead, the Gauteng DA claimed.
Provincial spokesperson on health Jack Bloom also claimed hospital management kept the deaths under wraps.
“I am concerned that three years after the deaths forced the closure, we have still not seen effective action against at least three implicated people,” he said.
Bloom also alleged management had lied to the department saying the experts had raised concerns about ventilation before the 32-bed facility opened.
“They were warned not [to] open the unit and the fact that they closed down the unit after the deaths clearly shows that there was something wrong. Ventilation is key to infection control and it is worrying that nobody has been held accountable,” Bloom said.
Gauteng MEC for health Bandile Masuku said allegations that experts had warned about ventilation were still under investigation. He said the hospital had conducted “mortality and morbidity” meetings to determine the causes of deaths and whether they were avoidable or not.
According to Masuku, the causes of the patients’ deaths included total surface area inhalation injuries, asthmatic developed pneumonia and HIV-related illnesses. The unit was now operational and “the outcome of the forensic investigation will determine actions to be taken [against implicated officials], if any,” Masuku said.