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“Chained prisoner dies in a hospital fire, staff unable to rescue him”

Health Minister Joe Phaahla has said  two patients died in one of the 17 hospitals that caught fire in some parts of the country.

In response to DA parliamentary question on Thursday, Dr Phaahla said two patients perished in a fire at FH Odendaal Hospital in Modimolle, Limpopo in May 2021.

“One of the two patients who died in the hospital was a prisoner chained to his bed. Nurses were not able to remove the bed from his small room or to find a guard to unlock his handcuffs.”

According to Dr Phaahla since January 2020, 17 hospitals across the country experienced fires, and while many were extinguished quickly and with minimal damage done, these fires highlight the lack of maintenance and failing infrastructure in the country’s health facilities.

He said that most of the wards at the hospitals that were impacted by the fire had been destroyed.

The Health Minister didn’t provide an estimate of the cost of repairing and recovering from the damage but said it would be millions of rands.

Phaahla said that the fire at Carletonville Hospital in the West Rand destroyed medical equipment and personal protective equipment, while Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg suffered extensive damage to both infrastructure and equipment.

In a statement, Shadow Deputy Minister of Health Lindy Wilson said that the situation at public health facilities is unacceptable.

“The DA has highlighted the decline in health care quality in South Africa, but the ANC government has not done much to address collapsing infrastructure and a lack of maintenance,” said Wilson.

Wilson said the government has failed to provide adequate budgets, poor management, and neglect of security and care of patients across the board has led to further losses of infrastructure and facilities, putting patients at risk.

“The ANC government does not seem to care about the poor and vulnerable, nor do they seem to prioritise their health. They push for a National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, but they fail to make sure health facilities are up to par,” added Wilson.

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