Fort England family in the dark after patient assault*

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A Fort England patient and their family are still in the dark after laying a charge of assault against the psychiatric hospital. However, the hospital’s head says they are not hiding anything and are waiting for the outcome of an internal investigation. Meanwhile, the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is gearing up to take the country’s mental health care crisis to the highest level. Kathryn Cleary reports.

The family of a patient laid an internal complaint with Fort England the end of March after the patient was allegedly assaulted by nursing and security staff. On 2 May, having heard nothing from the hospital the patient and their family laid a formal charge with SAPS, alleging a brutal and humiliating assault.

Grocott’s Mail has since spoken with the family.

A few days before filing the case with SAPS, it is alleged the patient was involved in a fight with another patient in the ward. The patient’s family said their family member had a black eye, but that Fort England hadn’t alerted them to the incident.

“[They’re] not a saint,” the family said. “But I’m not happy because nobody told us [about the incident].”

The family alleged that no staff members in the ward had intervened during the incident. “Even when [patient’s name] fought with another patient they were just looking at [patient’s name],” they said.

It is also alleged that the patient was verbally threatened by a nurse in the ward before filing the case.

The family member recounted the patient’s account of the alleged verbal threat as follows; “The one thing that [you]must remember is that the lawyers of Fort England are much stronger than the lawyers that [you]have.”

The patient’s family member said that the hospital had also tried to dissuade them from taking up the matter. “They told me that I listen too much to the things my [sibling]says.”

On 13 May the patient’s family submitted a written request to Fort England to have the patient moved to a different ward for safety reasons. At the time of publication, the patient had yet to be moved.  

Fort England Acting CEO, Mbuyi Zonke said, “The matter is being handled by an outsider.” When asked for more specific information he further explained that an internal investigation was currently under way by a member of the hospital’s review board.

He elaborated that after the internal investigation, the family would be informed and the appropriate actions would be taken.

“We’re not hiding anything,” he said. “What concerns me is the complaint of the patient and the family.”

Zonke said a report on the hospital board’s investigation was due to be submitted to him on Monday, 21 May. He would revert to the family after reviewing the findings.

No comment could be made on the ongoing police investigation.

SAPS Spokesperson Captain Mali Govender confirmed a case had been opened but said no individual had been charged for common assault.

“The case is still under investigation,” Govender said.

“I want to be there when SAPS investigates,” said the patient’s family member. “Because I don’t want my [family member]to be traumatised by the nurses and those who are going to be there.”

Grocott’s Mail will continue to report on further developments.
Taking it to the top

As Grocott’s Mail continues to follow the Eastern Cape’s mental healthcare crisis, the South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) is gearing up to take the country’s mental health care crisis to the highest level.

We are making a submission to the President and the Disability Rights Machinery on whether anything has changed since Life Esidimeni,” said a Federation project leader.

“The objective of this is to expose how the White Paper on the Rights of People with Disabilities is not being implemented and to address continuing challenges in the mental healthcare system at various levels. We are also going to include the perspective of service users across the country.”

The National Disability Rights Machinery is a body that serves to review the White Paper on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Grocott’s Mail is currently aiding the SAFMH in their research for the submission.

*This story has been re-edited as of 3 June 2018, the original story was published online on 21 May 2018. 

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