Warning: Contains graphic images and video which may upset sensitive readers.
A Phalaborwa family is demanding answers from Limpopo health MEC, Dr Phophi Ramathu, over why worms started crawling out of their mother’s mouth, days after she was discharged from hospital. They are demanding millions in damages for negligence.
The family claims Mabotse Malatji was admitted to Maphuta Malatji Hospital in Namakgale last month, after she had breathing difficulties.
Malatji’s daughter, Flora Letakgomo – who works at the hospital as a cleaner – said problems started after a squabble ensued between her and the nurses at the hospital.
“First they refused me to touch my mother, let alone to shake hands with her during visiting hours, and later they claimed I was too forward after I asked why they covered her face with a cloth. First I thought it was for the adherence of Covid-19 regulations but I only established later that she was operated,” claimed Letakgomo.
She said matters came to a head after the hospital management asked for her permission to discharge her mother and transfer her to an old age home.
“When I refused, they banned me from ever visiting her again.
“I later learnt from an insider that they had started mistreating her and refused to bath and feed her. As if that was not enough, they later discharged her, claiming she was better and she will completely recuperate from home,” she told The Citizen.
“Hardly two days after she was discharged, fat worms started coming out of her mouth and some sections of her body. We became baffled and petrified. We called the EFF Mopani regional leader, Pontsho Mashumo, who called the hospital and the department and it was then that they spoke to us. We took her back to the hospital after the EFF’s intervention but nurses refused to re-admit her,” said the patient’s granddaughter, Nomia Letakgomo on Wednesday.
Letakgomo said the family was now pursuing the matter legally.
“I personally called the MEC for health, Phophi Ramathiba on October 23, but the MEC was rude. She accused me of not addressing her well. She said she was an honourable person and that I shouldn’t have called her Phophi but I should have instead addressed her as ‘Doctor Phophi Ramathuba’.”
“But nonetheless, she later promised to call the hospital and send a dentist to attend [to] my grandmother. But that was that and nothing happened.”
Ramathuba was not available for comment at the time of going to press, but in a recent media statement, she said: “On admission, the patient was not ambulatory and was bedridden. She couldn’t feed, bath, walk or talk. An NG [nasogastric] tube and a urinary catheter were inserted on her. It is common in patients with her condition to keep their oral cavity open – risking chances of flies accessing it hence a surgical mask was recommended,” she said.
The MEC admitted to receiving a call from Malatji’s granddaughter regarding the maggots.
“I intervened immediately and she was admitted and seen by the multi-disciplinary team including the dentist. It was then concluded clinically that the patient had maggots-infested oral cavity due to poor oral hygiene. She is currently stable and receiving care. In light of this, we dispatched a team of experts to the hospital to conduct investigations,” said Ramathuba.
Limpopo head of the South African Human Rights Commission, Victor Mavhidula, confirmed that the commission was legally representing the Malatji family.
“We take the family’s matter very seriously and I think they have a water-tight case. We are currently running investigations and hope the two parties speak from the same page. But if they fail to find each other, we will have no option but to proceed to court,” said Mavhidula.