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People could have been exposed to infections

By Sowetan | Oct 23, 2012 | COMMENTS [ 5 ]

FOR 15 hours patients and children at Brits District Hospital walked past the bloodied corpse of an unknown man in the casualty ward and possibly exposed themselves to infections.

The man was shot on the evening of Sunday October 7 and is believed to have died at about 10pm. His body was only removed the next day at 1pm by government mortuary workers.

When Sowetan arrived at the hospital the humid casualty ward was crammed with patients, some sleeping on chairs. Babies and young children played near the bed where the man's body was covered with a sheet.

A curtain had been used to cordon off the bed, but the floor was marked with blood splatters that seemed to have come from the man's wounds.

A nurse, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said the man's life could have been saved had the hospital had a surgical theatre.

"We just stabilised him when he arrived here. There was nothing more we could do," said the nurse, who also revealed that the man had been shot in the stomach and that the bullet had exited through his back.

Brits Hospital does not have its own mortuary and relies on another government morgue about 10km away.

Pretoria microbiologist Dr Frik Botha said ideally the body was supposed to have been removed immediately from the ward to prevent the possible spread of infections.

"Infections can be spread around the proximity of a corpse if someone gets in contact with the blood or bodily fluids of the deceased," he said.

He said, depending on the room temperature, the tissue of a corpse deteriorates quicker in a warm atmosphere.

Dr Mandla Mazizi, former head of the forensic department of the Gauteng health department, said it was the responsibility of hospital staff to wrap up the body and place it in a secure place away from other patients while waiting for a mortuary vehicle.

"Infections could spread if infection-control protocols aren't followed. In criminal cases nurses should report the death to the police, who will then send a mortuary van to collect the body. A medical report is done before the body is removed," Mazizi said.

Independent forensic and ballistic expert Kobus Steyl said though no evidence would be lost, the corpse should have been preserved in a secured place.

- sifilel@sowetan.co.za

This article was first published in the printed newspaper on 22 October 2012

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COMMENTS [ 5 ]

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Oct 23, 2012 8:53 | 0 replies

Doctor Mandla Mazizi let me tell you something it is NOT the responsibility of a nurse to report a murdered person, in each and every hospital there is a clerk who receives all the patients who come in and these clerks are in A&E departments or casualty, as soon as there is a police case the clerk together with mortuary people report to police and there is suppose to be a register to keep all the details of these people and most of the time the police register is NORMALLY labelled police cases. In a normally functioning hospital all the deceased are sent to hospital mortuary or morgue, the doctors and the nurses can never take upon them to communicate with outside people, if that is the case the very doctor who certified the death should inform the police to come and pick up the corpse, but it is the duty of the doctor to report any infectious conditions and register them accordingly.
What you doctors are putting on the shoulders of the nurses is too much but you should take responsibility. In this case where they share a mortuary with another hospital which I find very disturbing because it is equal to not respecting the dead they should have arranged to put the deceased in the sluice room until a transport to pick him up comes or ask the nearby private mortuary to pick up the body and keep it until police make arrangements to come and pick it up to the police mortuary or government mortuary. Doctor Mandla Mazizi I do not want to think that you are a cadre.
In this case nurses have got nothing to do with this, and I would advise that nurses and hospital must have INCIDENT FORMS where every issue is reported in case there is litigation.

Oct 23, 2012 11:0 | 0 replies

A police case can never be wrapped or washed he/she must first be seen by police afetr all investigation have been done then he/she is washed and cleaned.

Oct 23, 2012 11:7 | 0 replies

What kind of hospital is this with no mortuary?

Oct 23, 2012 11:33 | 0 replies

Bebesocs: Thans for that very rational, detailed an accurate exposition> I work in the health environment and have had extensive experience in the manner in which such cases are handled, and you are dead right. However, I think one can still reasonably expect that the person in charge of that ward or area to have properly cordoned off the area to avoid 1) contamination of the scene, and 2) spread of possible infection. It seems as though the nurse was about the only one in the area who paid any attention and I feel she is to be commended for that.

iPhone: The reality is that many "smaller" hospitals do not have their own morgues. That function is often outsourced to accredited funeral services with appropriate police liaison. Morgues are not simply rooms. Bodies have to be kept at regulated temperatures, certain security issues need to be taken into consideration, particularly in the cases of "unknown" or unidentified persons. So they are quite costly to set-up and run.

Oct 23, 2012 1:18 | 0 replies