Epileptic man left on floor for hours in hospital

“I found Luyanda lying stomach down on the cold floor in a puddle of his own urine.”

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Photo of front of Khayelitsha Hospital
Khayelitsha Hospital was opened in 2012. Photo: Dalton Ndongeni

The management of Khayelitsha Hospital has apologised after a man with epilepsy was left lying on the floor in his own urine for hours. His partner had brought him in the morning to the hospital for treatment because of severe fits.

Nomvuzo Maponya, his aunt, told GroundUp that she was utterly disappointed and disgusted by what she witnessed and experienced in the hospital on 6 November.

Luyanda Dyasi, 52, was taken to the hospital by his partner after he had “continuous fits”. Maponya said that he developed epilepsy after being injured in a car accident a few years ago. She said that because Dyasi’s partner could not stay with him at the hospital, she went through to be with him.

Maponya said she got to the hospital at about 1pm. She searched the hospital for Dyasi. “I wandered around and asked about my nephew but I got little help,” she said. “I eventually came to a waiting area, where I found Luyanda lying stomach down on the cold floor in a puddle of his own urine.”

Maponya said she was completely shocked and rushed to her nephew. She tried to turn him over. She asked him what was happening and why he was on the floor, but he was confused. All he could say was that he was getting cold.

“He was shivering. I took a red jacket from the clothes I had brought for him and covered him with it,” said Maponya.

She said she managed to find a few nurses walking about and asked them about Dyasi’s situation. But, she said she got rude responses and was told that there were no nurses available to attend to him and there were no beds available. Maponya asked for a blanket or sheet for him. After much reservation from them, one of the nurses eventually brought her a blanket. Maponya had to lift a weak, helpless Dyasi on her own, even though she uses a crutch herself because of a bad leg, and put the blanket under her nephew.

Dyasi was left on the floor for hours with no attendance. Maponya was also scolded by one of the cleaners who complained about Dyasi urinating on himself. The cleaner told Maponya to move him out of the way so he could mop.

“I have absolutely no words about the treatment my nephew and I received. I thought nurses were supposed to help people. I am completely disgusted and disappointed,” said Maponya.

Dyasi eventually got help at about 5pm in the evening. An ambulance took him to Tygerberg Hospital, where he received help. He was transferred back to Khayelitsha Hospital the following day, from where he was later discharged.

On 21 November Maponya had a meeting with the Khayelitsha Hospital management. She said they apologised continuously and sincerely for the incident and told her that it was being investigated and further steps would be taken after the investigation.

Provincial health department spokesperson, Sithembiso Magubane, confirmed this: “The family’s complaint is being investigated by the hospital management. The Khayelitsha hospital management would like to apologise to the Dyasi family for the negative experience. The hospital strives to render a quality service to all its patients. Generally, the hospital receives more compliments than complaints.”

Magubane urged people who were unhappy or not satisfied with treatment or their experience at any health facility to bring their concern to the facility manager’s attention or contact the hotline call centre on 0860 142 1420, or send a “please call me” to 079 769 1207 or email service@westerncape.gov.za.

TOPICS:  Health

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Dear Editor

Health department spokesperson Sithembiso Magubane said, "The hospital strives to render a quality service to all its patients”.

Clearly, they're not striving hard enough. How is leaving a seriously ill patient on the floor for hours providing a "quality service”? Such disrespect is against the constitution and National Health Act, specifically, chapter 2, section 5 “a healthcare provider may not refuse a person emergency treatment”, which the patient was urgently in need of.

And what does “generally, the hospital receives more compliments than complaints” mean in this context? If the hospital receives mostly compliments, say, 53% (see below), is it alright to leave patients for hours in their own waste? In my experience, this response is typical of the department and Western Cape government, which replies to complaints with “Dr So-and-So is of the highest calibre and we’ve never had complaints against her”. But there’s always a first time.

This incident indicates a systemic failure in the system. And it’s not a lack of staff and resources but organisational inefficiency and staff indifference to clients’ needs. (Recently, a patient who had been waiting over 24 hours at Groote Schuur Hospital to be either admitted or discharged, commented to me about medical staff, “They walk around a lot”.)

The WC government portrays public services in the province, including health, as being of the highest on the country. But that’s not necessarily true. The South African Health Review 2016 ranks the public health service the third lowest according to the percentage of users “highly satisfied” with the service at 52.8%. The EC surprisingly, after all the bad things we hear, is 62.1%; FS 59.0; GP 51.8; KZN 56.7%; LP 68.0%; MP 64.1%; NC 64.8% and national average, 57.1% (2014).

This ranking is an important measure of the perception of the WC’s health service, and it’s not good and contradicts their frequent and loud assertions about “quality care”.

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