Fuzane Petition (alleged assaults on her child whilst in a public hospital)

NCOP Petitions and Executive Undertakings

13 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC, Limpopo)
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Meeting Summary

Ms Nobuntu Fuzane petitioned on behalf of her daughter Tamara Fuzane who had been admitted to Groote Schuur Hospital for an operation that involved the replacement of her double shunt (drain pipe). During her time under the hospital's care she was allegedly subject to ill-treatment and assaulted. Ms Fuzane also spoke about her daughter’s alleged assault and ill-treatment at the Khayelitsha Hospital. It was not specified nor very clear what sort of relief Ms Fuzane sought from the Committee and what she wanted to achieve from this case. Dr Terence Carter, Deputy Director General (DDG) for the National Department of Health (DoH), responsible for all the hospitals in the country, was not aware of this case, having only been informed about it the previous day, and as a result was unable to speak on the matter. Dr Anwar Kharwa, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Accounting Officer for Khayelitsha Hospital, said an investigation the hospital undertook found that no assault or malicious intent took place towards Tamara Fuzane; the marks and injuries on her body were due to pressure ulcers which mimic assault marks. Some Committee members were very sceptical of these findings and felt the injuries and marks found on Tamara’s body were not consistent with pressure ulcers.

Members sought clarity on a number of issues. They wanted to know whether an enquiry was conducted with everyone, including patients who were admitted around the same time as Tamara. They asked why the nurses did not pick up these marks and injuries. Why did Ms Fuzane have to go elsewhere to seek medical help for her daughter? Why did the patient leave the hospital wheelchair bound?

Due to time constraints the Committee was unable to conclude the hearing. The hearing was postponed to the 3 June 2015.

Meeting report

Ms Fuzane explained that on the 1 August 2013 she went to go visit her daughter, Tamara Fuzane, at Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH). Her daughter had an operation on 27 July 2013. When she arrived she asked for the doctor who was responsible for her daughter, and was informed by Nurse Peterson that the doctor was on leave and was overseas. She was informed that she could take her daughter home because there was nothing else the hospital could do for her. Ms Fuzane protested that she did not have any clothes for her daughter. She was given hospital sheets to clothe her daughter and discharged. She showed the Committee the hospital sheets that she had been given. Ms Fuzane asked for a wheelchair for her daughter and was informed that she needed to apply for one, as there was a waiting list for wheelchairs. She eventually received a wheelchair and left the hospital. A few weeks later, Tamara’s condition had worsened and Ms Fuzane decided to go to the media with the story about the ill treatment that her daughter and herself endured from GSH. The media then approached GSH and asked for their any comments. Ms Fuzane was then contacted by GSH management and asked not to publish the story, and asked to meet with her. She was informed that they could not help her at GSH but could refer her to a Care Centre. She could not afford to pay for the Care Centre.

After six weeks her daughter was discharged from the Care Centre. One could not stay longer than six weeks at the Care Centre. She went back to GSH and was told by the doctor to go to Khayelitsha Hospital. She was told she did not need a letter of referral because she was from Khayelitsha.

She had trouble receiving help from Khayelitsha Hospital because she did not have a letter of referral. Khayelitsha Hospital informed her that she needed to go back to GSH because they knew Tamara’s history, they had operated on her since she was thirteen years old. She was referred back to GSH on 6 February. She went back to GSH but was sent back to Khayelitsha; GSH did not want to help her because of the trouble that she had brought to the hospital by going to the media. She was referred back to Khayelitsha on the 27 February.

When she went to go visit her daughter at Khayelitsha Hospital she found her foot was swollen. She asked Dr Weber what was wrong, and was told that it was due to pressure building up in her foot. She also explained that she had found Tamara beaten and when she asked the nurse on duty who did it, she replied that she did not know. All the other nurses were asked and they all denied it and said they did not know.

Dr Weber did not do anything about the incident he just said “it is my pleasure”. She then called her Superintendent and explained the situation. The Superintendent said to contact the social crime police. The social crime police were contacted and they took photographs of Tamara’s scars. Ms Fuzane took Tamara to a private doctor, who informed her that Tamara’s hip was broken and was swollen and as a result she could not move.

Ms Fuzane then complained to Parliament about this ill treatment, and was referred to Helen Rossouw. She also approached the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and they organised a march on Wale Street.

On 18 February 2014, she opened up a case and did not hear from the court until August 2014. She was initially told that her case would be taken to the High Court, but no progress has been made as yet.

Ms Fuzane claimed she had proof and evidence for everything.

Ms M Dunjwa (ANC), Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health, asked whether Ms Fuzane remembered the name of the prosecutor who helped her.

Ms Fuzane said that it was a Dr Haramse.
Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) asked whether Ms Fuzane was able to remember the person whom she spoke to at Parliament so that the Committee could get them to come in.

Ms Fuzane said she could not remember who it was.

Mr Emam Shaik (NFP, KZN) asked whether an inquiry or investigation was made to find out whether any other patients admitted during Tamara’s stay, witnessed or knew anything.

Dr W James (DA) passed on his sympathy to Ms Fuzane for the loss of her daughter. He asked what Tamara’s medical condition was.

Ms Fuzane explained that her daughter had a cyst in her brain that needed to be removed through surgery.

Mr Julius (DA, Western Cape) asked Ms Fuzane to clarify what she hoped to achieve from the petition, and what relief she was seeking from the Committee.

Ms Fuzane responded that she and her daughter were victimised and so much was taken away from them because of the GSH and Khayelitsha Hospital’s ill treatment. Her life as a single mother raising a daughter with that condition had been very difficult. She also spoke about how much had been taken away from her daughter Tamara because of her condition.

Dr P Maesela (ANC, Gauteng) asked if anyone admitted that she was assaulted at GSH.

Dr Maesela was corrected and informed that she was allegedly assaulted at Khayelitsha Hospital not GSH. He was informed that no one admitted it.

Ms Mokause (EFF, North West) (not on Website) asked if she received any assistance throughout all these incidents and whether she currently had any assistance.

Ms Fuzane said that no one assisted her, except the TAC.

Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) asked how far she was in the legal stage; he would hate the Committee to jeopardise any proceedings currently taking place.

Mr Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) asked what Dr Kharwa did once he knew about these complaints

Ms Fuzane replied Dr Kharwa did not do anything.

Mr Ximbi (ANC, Western Cape) asked whether Dr Weber was present.

It was established that Dr Weber was not present.

Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) asked Ms Fuzane if she was adequately informed about the tumour and what life would be like for Tamara and herself after the operation, and whether she gave consent for the operation.

Ms Fuzane responded that she was not given adequate information about what was wrong with her daughter or what life would be like after the operation. She was just told that her daughter had a cyst in her brain and that it needed surgery. When she asked what a cyst is and what it looked like she was told that it cannot be seen, it can only be seen through a microscope. She was asked to sign the papers. She signed the papers and gave consent for the operation.

Ms T Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked whether there had been direct engagement with the Director General and Member of the Executive Council (MEC), especially since media, legal and TAC involvement in the matter.

Ms Fuzane said she did not see or meet the MEC; only officials from the Department of Social Development.

A Member asked whether she was called or informed beforehand that her daughter could be discharged.

Ms Fuzane said that she was not informed beforehand; she only found out that the day she went to visit her daughter that she could be discharged.

The Chairperson then opened the floor to the Departments and hospitals. He explained that they should take this very seriously and speak as though they were in court; i.e. Speak the truth and nothing but the truth.

Dr Terence Carter explained that he was not aware of this matter, was only brought to his attention the previous day. He was unable to comment because he did not have enough information to express an opinion or make a recommendation. He would need to gather information before making any comments.

Mr Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked what the implications were for this.

Dr Carter explained that he needed to gather the necessary information in order to form proper recommendations and opinion. He needed to understand the legal process and where it currently was so that it is not interrupted. He emphasised that he needed more information from both sides in order to make recommendations and comment on the matter.

Ms Wana (ANC, Eastern Cape) sought clarity on whether the MEC knew about the whole situation.

The Committee approved Dr Carter’s request to gather adequate information and come back to the Committee with recommendations and comments.

Dr David Bass, Western Cape Department of Health Medical Advisor, represented the hospitals as a medical expert and not a legal expert.

As Dr Bass continued the Committee interrupted him. There was a great deal of frustration and disruption around how Dr David Bass was presenting his side of the story. The Committee demanded that the story be told by the hospital CEOs not Dr Bass.

Dr James (DA) urged the Committee to respect the presentation by the Department.

The Chairperson eventually suggested that the CEO of the Khayelitsha Hospital speak first followed by the CEO of GSH and the Department of Health representatives.

Mr Michalakis (DA, Western Cape) commented that natural justice needed to take place. That is, what one party was afforded, the other party should be afforded too. He said that Dr David Bass should be allowed to present his case.

Mr Kharwa explained to the Committee that Tamara Fuzane suffered from a cyst in the brain. A drain shunt (drain pipe) was inserted into her brain to relieve the pressure in the brain. Because of her condition, she could not move and was susceptible to getting bedsores and blisters. The allegations of assault were investigated; the key findings were that no assault took place, that there was no malicious intent, and that what appeared on Tamara’s body were pressure ulcerations that mimic assault wounds.

The hospital sought legal guidance and was recommended that to support Ms Fuzane with looking after Tamara. This was arranged, and care helpers were sent to Ms Fuzane’s home two or three times a week while Ms Fuzane was at home. From their perspective, the hospital supported Ms Fuzane and her daughter was given the best care possible. He stressed that under no circumstances was she assaulted and that the marks on her body were a result of pressure ulcers.

Mr Mosala (ANC) sought clarity on whether the patient was admitted with scars or not. He also raised concern over the use of the word ‘client’ and not patient.

Mr Kharwa explained that the only scars or marks evident when she arrived were the blisters on her foot due to the pressure.

Ms Dunjwa sought clarity around the soft tissue injury.

Mr Kharwa drew on the investigation’s findings and said that there was no malicious assault; the areas where the marks occurred are common areas for pressure ulcers to occur.

Ms Dunjwa and other members of the Committee voiced their scepticism. She commented that in all her years in the medical field she had ever seen abrasions of that nature caused by pressure.

Mr Shaik sought clarity on a number of issues. He wanted to know whether an enquiry was conducted with everyone, including patients who were admitted around the same time as Tamara. He asked why the nurses did not pick up these marks and injuries. Why did Ms Fuzane have to go elsewhere to seek medical help for her daughter? Why did the patient leave the hospital wheelchair bound?

Mr Kharwa acknowledged the fact that the nurses should have picked up the marks and injuries; he noted it as an area for improvement. The client was wheelchair bound because she had chronic weakness on her left side, specifically her left arm and leg.

Mr Shaik asked whether patients were interviewed as witnesses.

Mr Kharwa replied that they were not interviewed. He noted that as a weakness in care by the nurses and attention needs to be given to that. The client was already wheelchair bound when she came to the Khayelitsha Hospital.

Dr Maesela pointed out that the patient did not leave in the condition she came in, instead she left with a broken hip, blisters and ulcerations. He said that these injuries are not consistent with bedsores; he requested that Mr Kharwa respect the Committee and tell the truth.

Mr Kharwa insisted that he was telling the truth and denied that Tamara’s hip was broken under the care of Khayelitsha Hospital.

Ms Wana asked what treatment Tamara was given, maybe the treatment caused the injuries and marks on her body.

Mr Kharwa explained that she was being given epileptic treatment.

Mr Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked for the procedure used in appointing an internal investigator.

The Chairperson interrupted the discussion. Due to time constraints the hearing would have to be postponed to another day.

It was suggested that the hearing be scheduled for a whole day so that time is not a problem. It was also suggested that the Departments send their presentations to the Committee before the meeting so that members could engage and discuss the presentations on the day.

The hearing was postponed to the 3 June 2015. The Chairperson apologised to everyone for the inconvenience this caused.

The meeting was adjourned.


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