Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
27 Jan 2021
12:26 pm

Shonisani Lethole’s severe Covid-19 infection worsened by negligence, says heath ombud

Makhosandile Zulu

The Office of the Health Ombud has recommended that the accounting officer at Tembisa Tertiary Hospital and 19 other staff should undergo disciplinary hearings.

Shonisani Lethole. Picture: Twitter/@BusiLethole

Health Ombud, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, on Wednesday said one of his findings into the death of businessman Shonisani Lethole at Tembisa Tertiary Hospital last year was that his severe Covid-19 infection was “compounded” by medical negligence.

Releasing the findings of his investigation into the circumstances surrounding Lethole’s death, Makgoba said had these medical issues been attended to, Lethole’s “outcome might have been different”, adding that the current head of medicine at the hospital said in the ombud’s report that the businessman’s death was “preventable and avoidable”.

Lethole died at the Tembisa Hospital after being admitted with breathing difficulties. On 25 June 2020, Lethole tweeted Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, informing him of the treatment at the hospital and that he had not eaten for 48 hours.

Makgoba said his probe was a result of Mkhize’s complaint, which was later supported by the Lethole family and backed by a petition signed by over 25,936 people.

ALSO READ: Shonisani Lethole laid to rest, health ombud probes Tembisa Hospital

Makgoba said the investigation found that Lethole was not offered food at the hospital when he arrived on 23 June 2020, until 25 June 2020, and that since 27 June 2020 he was not fed after he was sedated until his death on 29 June 2020.

ALSO READ: ‘Why did he not eat for 48 hours?’ – father after son dies in Tembisa Hospital

“That is really the main finding on the food,” Makgoba said. The reports states that Lethole’s tweet to Mkhize “had merit” and was “credible and truthful”.

Makgoba added that the “piece of paper” submitted by the hospital as proof that Lethole ate could not be accepted as credible evidence.

One of a few affidavits submitted by one of the patients hospitalised around the same period as Lethole revealed that that patient too had not been fed, Makgoba said.

The medical care rendered to Lethole was categorised as being substandard and there was medical negligence found by the Office of the Health Ombud, Makgoba said.

Lethole’s clinical records were found to be defective, appalling, had falsified descriptions, with some days missing records, while some records were untimed, unsigned and from these records, doctors’ notes were not found for the days 23, 25, 28, 29 and 30 June 2020, the latter day being when the patient should have been examined after being certified dead, Makgoba said.

The probe also found that Lethole’s diagnostic tests were never reviewed by a medical team until his death.

The hospital had also provided the investigators with inaccurate information on Lethole’s “journey” from arrival at the hospital until his death, Makgoba said.

Makgoba said the investigation revealed that at the time the hospital was not fit and ready to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Makgoba made 11 recommendations but only listed a few during Wednesday’s media briefing.

The Office of the Health Ombud recommended that the Gauteng MEC for health appoint an independent audit process to look at the competency and fitness of purpose of the hospital leadership and management, review and revise the hospital’s admission policy and process, audit the corporate governance structure at the hospital, and conduct an appropriate climate survey assessment of the staff and patients.

Makgoba said during the investigation it was found that “there was no team spirit” among hospital staff. “It was almost like a zoo.”

It was also recommended that the accounting officer at the hospital as well as 19 staff, including medical doctors, people in charge of food and nursing staff, should undergo disciplinary hearings.

Makgoba said the hospital should not be classified as a tertiary institution and that this classification should be reviewed.

The report can be read here and the annexures can be found here.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.