• SAMA says the Health Ombud’s report into the death of Shonisani Lethole points to a massive failure in the country’s healthcare system.
  • Lethole died in June 2020 at Tembisa Hospital.
  • SAMA says Professor Malegapuru Makgoba’s report must serve as a catalyst for reform to benefit all citizens.

The Health Ombud’s findings into the treatment and death of Shonisani Lethole at Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital (TPTH) point to a massive failure in the healthcare system, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) said in a statement on Thursday.

As a result, SAMA said, it will seek an urgent meeting with the minister of health and other role-players to discuss much-needed reforms in healthcare.

On Wednesday morning, Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba released a damning report on the circumstances surrounding Lethole’s death in June 2020.

He was admitted to the hospital with severe Covid-19-related symptoms.

Earlier reported that the main findings were:

  • Lethole was not offered meals at TPTH for 100 hours and 54 minutes;
  • Lethole died without knowing his Covid-19 test results;
  • Lethole’s tweet on 25 June 2020 at 20:31 was just the “tip of an iceberg”;
  • His tweet, in which he tagged Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, was authentic and truthful, and it uncovered severe systemic and governance deficiencies at TPTH; and
  • TPTH was not fit for purpose nor “ready for Covid-19”.

SAMA chair Dr Angelique Coetzee said this situation was repeated in many other hospitals throughout the country and the management of this hospital should be held to account.

“We cannot continually be looking at these types of incidents as being isolated. We have reported many times about similar conditions elsewhere and about the need for urgent intervention.

“Unless this intervention occurs and rapidly, we fear another case such as this will occur,” she added.

News24 reported earlier that on Thursday, 25 June 2020 Lethole tweeted Mkhize, informing him of the treatment at the hospital and that he had not eaten for 48 hours.

Following Lethole’s death on 29 June 2020, Mkhize requested the ombud to urgently probe the matter.

The minister was yet to comment on the ombud’s report.

Coetzee added that while Lethole was able to use Twitter to alert the authorities to his plight, many other people don’t have access to this technology and will be “suffering in silence”.

“Professor Makgoba’s report must serve as a catalyst for reform for the benefit of all citizens; the findings and recommendations must be the basis for meaningful change.

“Without that reform happening, and without appropriate action taken against those who deemed Tembisa Hospital fit to serve as a Covid-19 facility, and those who failed in their professional duties, Mr Lethole’s death will, regrettably, become nothing more than a statistic,” Coetzee said.

On Thursday, a defiant Dr Lekopane Mogaladi, chief executive of Tembisa Hospital, told News24 he would be taking the report on review.

Mogaladi also denied Makgoba’s claim that he had tried to block the release of the report.

He added that the findings against him – which included that he signed inaccurate and misleading reports given to then-Gauteng health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and the ombud – weren’t accurate.

The ombud also found that Mogaladi failed to report missing clinical notes to the police, as is required by law.

Significantly, the Gauteng health department said it would not be taking the report on review

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