The nurses at the clinic were cruel to make the parents of the baby go through the death of their child all over again because they failed to follow protocol”
A RIETFONTEIN couple had to relive the loss of their baby after they found out months after the baby’s death that the staff at a local clinic had never cremated the body.
Claudius Jagers and his wife, Johanna Grawie, experienced the loss of their child on August 2, 2019 after the premature baby died within minutes of being born.
According to Jagers, the couple were informed by clinic staff that the baby’s birth weight was too low and that the body was regarded as “medical waste” that would be cremated.
He said that his wife signed a consent form giving the clinic permission to dispose of the baby.
“My wife was five and a half months pregnant when she went into labour. We were heartbroken when we heard that our baby boy had died after he lived for a few minutes. The nurses told us that because the weight of the baby was so low it would have to be cremated. They said we did not need a death certificate. We went home with great despair and have since then tried to live with the loss,” said Jagers.
He said they were shocked to find out when they took their other child to the clinic that the baby’s body, which was apparently kept in a freezer at the clinic, was never cremated.
“We took our other son to the clinic in November. We had over the months struggled with the fact that we had lost a child but continued to live as there was nothing we could do. While we were at the clinic we were told by the staff that our baby’s body was still at the clinic and that we needed to bury it. We told them that we could not take the body immediately as we could be charged with concealment of birth seeing as though we do not have a death certificate. We then scrambled to get all the paperwork in order to get the death certificate so that we could have a funeral for our child.”
He said they buried the baby the day after they were issued with a death certificate.
“We managed to get a death certificate from the Department of Home Affairs on January 20, 2020 and we had the funeral on January 21, 2020.”
When asked whether he planned on taking any action against the parties involved in the matter, Jager, after a long pause, sighed and said that he did not believe that any action would come from any attempt to do so.
“We have lost our child and there is nothing we can do but to try to rebuild our lives. What happened is heartbreaking but what can one do.”
A community activist, Meris Kocks, who the couple approached to seek advice on the matter, described the service the couple received from the clinic staff as “shocking”.
Kocks said he wrote letters to the Department of Health, the Office of the Premier and other local government institutions to draw their attention to the matter.
He said that an urgent and thorough investigation into the matter is required.
“These people have been through a traumatic experience not once but twice, which they were put through by people who are regarded as professionals. The nurses at the clinic were cruel to make the parents of the baby go through the death of their child all over again because they failed to follow protocol. The heartache of the parents could have been avoided if the staff were doing their work properly,” said Kocks.
“The clinic never let the parents know that their baby was still in the freezer. Nobody even gave them a call to come and collect the body. If they had not taken their other child to the clinic, maybe the baby would have still been in the freezer. There was no empathy.
“This matter needs to be investigated to determine whether this was a matter of pure incompetence or whether it was a case of negligence; and who in the end will be held liable for the incident. Disciplinary action needs to be taken as things cannot just carry on like normal.”
Kocks added that other challenges at the facility also needed to be addressed.
“A community meeting with the premier of the Northern Cape, the MEC for Health and other district health officials is needed to discuss and highlight the challenges at the clinic. A clear vision and solutions to the problems need to be tabled at this meeting. We need input from the political leaders, department heads and the community to come to a solution,” Kocks said.
Northern Department of Health spokesperson Lebogang Majaha said that the department would conduct an investigation into the matter.
“As a department, we are aware of the alleged incident. Although there are no reports suggesting any medical negligence in this regard, the department deemed it necessary at the time to conduct an internal investigation as part of ensuring that action must be taken against anyone who might be found to have transgressed. We will continue engaging with the family in dealing with the matter,” said Majaha.