Home News NC dept faces legal action over unattended Covid patient

NC dept faces legal action over unattended Covid patient


Family of the deceased intends filing a claim for gross negligence, damages, pain and suffering.

Picture: Facebook

THE FAMILY of the deceased patient who was left unattended in the Covid-19 ward at De Aar Hospital intend on taking legal steps against the Northern Cape Department of Health for negligence.

Willemse van Syfer, 75, died a few hours after he was left alone in the ward, after staff allegedly left their posts before the morning shift arrived on July 3.

Anthony van Syfer said on Thursday that the family had not been privy to the outcome of the investigation that was conducted into his father’s death by the Department of Health.

“We are still reeling in shock at the treatment that my father was subjected to at a facility that is supposed to save lives. The ward is supposed to have round-the-clock medical attention,” said Van Syfer.

He added that his father was buried last week and the family are still struggling to come to terms with his death.

“There are no words to describe the trauma our family has been put through. Not even an animal would have been treated in that manner. If he had received proper medical attention, he could still have been alive today. I cannot sleep peacefully because I cannot process what happened.”

Van Syfer said that he met with his lawyer on Thursday as he intended to file a claim for gross negligence, damages, pain and suffering.

“No amount of money can bring back my father and you cannot put a price on a person’s life. However, the family wants it to be a lesson for the Department of Health and for the sake of future patients whose lives may be at stake at the hospital. We want the personnel who failed in their duties to be held personally responsible for his death. We want a full briefing on the time and cause of death, because we are convinced that his oxygen levels were not being monitored.”

He said that upon his admission on July 3, his father was still able to speak and communicate.

“He only struggled to breathe, so we were shocked to receive a call notifying us of his death. I had to help him change the linen as his catheter was leaking and was full of blood. A box had to be used to prop up the bed.”

Van Syfer added that they were permitted access to the Covid-19 ward to feed his father on July 3, where he said he witnessed personnel not wearing the proper personal protective equipment.

“Some were not even wearing masks. My father was extremely hungry and thirsty and I had to spoon-feed him as he was very weak. He was not able to get out of bed or do anything for himself.

“Later on in the day, my brother and I were not permitted into the Covid-19 ward and we were informed that my father was stable. An hour and 15 minutes later we received the call that he had died. He had no comorbidities or chronic illnesses and was not a smoker. ”

He said that his father had been taking care of his mother, who was sickly.

“My mother also tested positive for Covid-19 and her doctor referred her for hospital admission as her blood sugar levels were high. She was at the hospital from 11.15am until 2.45pm, where she was given a form to discharge herself. If we had known the standard of health care, we would have rather taken care of my father at home. He still video-called my mother as he was worried about her and told her that he would be coming home soon. He was not someone who ever complained.”

Van Syfer said that following his retirement from Transnet, his father would deliver meat hampers to members of the community.

“He was the breadwinner in the family and would never allow anyone to go hungry. He had his regular clients and also sold food hampers on credit to people who were not immediately able to afford it. He was well known in De Aar. My father was a pillar of strength and was always ready and willing to help or provide advice.”

He added that his father was survived by five children, 13 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Following media enquiries, the Northern Cape Department of Health failed to provide any details regarding the investigation into the patient’s death by the time of publication.

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