Family recalls day hospital nightmare

Raymond Prince, Colleta van Gussling and Ricardo van Gussling say Charmaine Thomas might still be alive if she’d received better care at Mitchell’s Plain day hospital.

Sixty-three-year-oldCharmaine Thomas spent the last moments of her life being dragged in a state of undress through Mitchell’s Plain day hospital while security guards, police officers and patients laughed, say her family.

The Eastridge woman’s family believe her life might have been saved if a hospital porter had come to her aid with a wheelchair.

Instead, the family say, her son-in-law, Ricardo van Gussling, and a family friend, Raymond Prince, struggled for more than 10 minutes to get her inside the trauma unit.

Ms Thomas’s daughter, Colleta van Gussling, 37, said her husband and Mr Prince had taken her mother to hospital on Sunday evening October 18 after she had complained about shortness of breath.

Mr Prince said there had been no security guards to assist and no wheelchair when they had arrived at the hospital with an unconscious Ms Thomas.

Five patients had helped them carry Ms Thomas, but they had still battled. In their desperation to get her medical attention, they had resorted to dragging her.

Mr Van Gussling said he and Mr Prince had then seen some security guards and two policemen, but, instead of helping, they had laughed at the sight of the woman being dragged through the hospital.

“It could have been their own mother on the floor looking for help,” Mr Van Gussling said.

“Her pants were lowered, exposing the bottom part of her body. I found the laughing to be disrespectful.”

“The service is so poor; we only received a wheelchair when she was close to the hospital bed,” he said.

Ms Van Gussling said her mother had died less than an hour later.

“The doctor told me it took 40 minutes to resuscitate her. Her heart stopped beating, and her brain started shutting down when she arrived at the trauma unit.”

Janap Davids, Ms Thomas’s neighbour, happened to be at the hospital that evening. She too had seen security guards laughing at the sight of Ms Thomas being dragged through the facility, she said.

“The patients in the waiting room were all yelling for help at that point. It was disheartening to know that no help came even in the state Charmaine was in.”

Eastridge community worker Beaty Roberts said the hospital was known for its poor response to medical emergencies and its rude and unhelpful security guards.

“The security do not respect patients nor do they help with urgency. Something needs to be done.”

Provincial Department of Health spokeswoman Monique Johnstone said doctors had tried to resuscitate Ms Thomas, who had arrived at the hospital at about 7.10pm, unconscious and with no recordable blood pressure.

“The medical team did all they could to try and save Ms Thomas, but she was subsequently declared deceased.”

Ms Thomas had had a history of hypertension and had suffered a heart attack on the way to hospital, she said.

According to her, the hospital has four porters, but only one was on duty that night.

“On the night in question, there was a porter on duty to provide a wheelchair. It is not expected from security guards to assist with direct patient care as it is not included in their scope. They are, however, willing to assist if required and inform the porter that a wheelchair is required.”

Ms Johnstone said that to report problems at the hospital the public could use its complaint boxes; send a “please call me” to 079 769 1207; call 0860 142 142 or contact the facility manager at 0213915820 or Amanda.Hansen@westerncape.gov.za.