Patient death triggers attack on hospital nurse


Pretoria – A nurse at the Odi Hospital in Mabopane was viciously assaulted on Saturday, strangled and her head bashed against the wall, by a relative of a patient who had just died.

The nurse had come into the ward and had attended to a disconnected drip on one of the patient’s arms.

“She went to the bedside to fix it, just as the woman in the bed took her last breath and died,” said a witness who was in the ward at the time.

The woman, who was critically ill, were surrounded by visitors and they reacted with shock and anger when they realised she had died.

“One of them, a man, went straight for the nurse and held her throat in his hands and squeezed,“ the witness said. The man shouted obscenities and accused the frightened nurse of allowing the woman to die on purpose.

“He told her she had killed the patient and threatened to kill her for that,“ another witness to the attack said, adding that the man ignored the nurse’s cries of pain and started hitting her head against the wall before security personnel overpowered him and dragged him away.

The man was taken out of the room, leaving behind traumatised patients and hospital staff.

“Police are investigating,“ Health Department spokesman Steve Mabona said. The nurse had responded to calls of unhappiness from the relatives, over a drip disturbed by the restless patient.

“She immediately attended to the problem, however, while busy inserting a drip, the patient stopped breathing,” he said.

Hospital staff said the patient had been admitted to hospital towards the end of last week, severely sick: “She had not been looking good.”

Her relatives had demanded a meeting with the doctor to discuss her condition, and he explained everything would be done to provide her with the required treatment.

The relatives had not taken it too well: “The attack after her death was a culmination of their anger and frustration, but was unwarranted,” said one hospital worker.

Nurses’ union, the Young Nurses Indaba, on Monday condemned the attack and blamed it on a lack of security.

“The government still fails to provide a reasonably safe environment for nurses as prescribed,” spokesman Lebogang Phehla said.

Nurses were left scarred after suffering psychological trauma from such attacks, he said, referring to the increasing number of attacks on health staff by patients in public health facilities across the country.

“We condemn the attack. Our health professionals give their best and as such they must be respected and protected from abuse.”

The nurse was discharged from hospital on Monday and receiving psychological support from the department, said Mabona.