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Health Ombud dismisses Tower Hospital allegations

Written by More Matshediso

South Africa has an independent body that was established to consider, investigate and dispose of complaints regarding the health system.

The Office of the Health Ombud exists to ensure that citizens have access to the kind of health care services they deserve. It was established in terms of the National Health Amendment Act of 2013 and is headed by Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba.

If health care users, the media or members of the public are not satisfied with services provided at any health establishment whether public or private they have the right to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Health Ombud through its complaint management system.

Falsified allegations about Tower Psychiatric Hospital

Earlier this year, Tower Psychiatric Hospital in Fort Beaufort in the Eastern Cape caught media attention after a Psychiatrist Dr Kiran Sukeri‚ who worked at the hospital at the time, complaint to the media that the hospital violated human rights of patients and alleged that a total of 90 patients had died at the facility.

Makgoba said Sukeri’s complaint was depicted and portrayed in the media as another ‘Life Esidimeni saga’.

Following Sukeri’s allegations, the Office of the Ombudsman conducted investigations and discovered that the allegations were falsified.

On Thursday, Makgoba released a report on an Investigation into Allegations of Patient Mismanagement and Patient Rights Violations at the Tower Psychiatric Hospital and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre (TPHPRC).

The report states that “no prima facie evidence of institutionalised, systematic or deliberate violations of Human Rights by staff at Tower Psychiatric Hospital and Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre was found.”

Makgoba said Sukeri’s allegations were falsified and exaggerated, and that his office found that about 68 patients died over a period of eight years.

“This means that 8.5 patients died per year, and that translates to 0.71 deaths per month in a 400-bed psychiatric hospital,” said Makgoba, adding that this was not abnormal.

The report also states that there was no link between the 68 deaths with the alleged Human Rights violations, unlike the 144 deaths in Life Esidimeni.

“For Dr Sukeri to release such ‘shoddy’, poorly-researched, falsified and exaggerated patient’s vital statistical information into the public via the media, amounted to ‘scientific misconduct or fraud’, a cardinal sin in science,” said Makgoba.

Makgoba said the Life Esidimeni comparison to the situation at Tower Hospital has created a national mass hysteria and shame.

He has recommended that Sukeri be suspended although he since has left the hospital to work in private practice.

For more information on lodging complaints with the Office of the Health Ombud on call 080 911 6472. The office will deploy its investigators on cases it has receives.