Hospital looking for absconded cholera patient

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

The Mpumalanga department of health and social services is looking for one of the two patients who absconded from the Barberton Hospital after being admitted for cholera.

Thirteen cases had been confirmed by yesterday, as well as two deaths linked to the outbreak.

The department recorded the first case of cholera on May 29 at Sheba mines in the Umjindi municipality.

Mpho Gabashane, the department's spokesman, said that one of the patients who went missing had reported back to the hospital but the other one was still missing.

Gabashane declined to discuss the circumstances under which the patients went missing, but said the department was trying to track down the patient.

"We can't divulge the identities of the patients or details of their disappearance," said Gabashane yesterday.

"Attempts are still being made to trace the whereabouts of the missing patient."

He said all 13 cases of cholera that were confirmed in Barberton involved illegal miners operating at Sheba mines.

"We have only four patients still at the hospital, while the others have been discharged," Gabashane said.

He said all water samples had tested negative for cholera, and the cause of the disease was therefore still linked to the underground processed water and unhygienic conditions that the miners were exposed to.

Gabashane challenged claims by patients that they had been poisoned by the mine management to prevent them from mining illegally.

The sick miners also disputed the department's claims that they were suffering from cholera.

"Claims made by the miners unfortunately have the potential to defeat all efforts to contain the outbreak.

"The determination of an outbreak is a scientific process conducted in line with national and World Health Organisation standards," said Gabashane.

"We only confirm a case of cholera after tests, and in this case it was confirmed as cholera," he said.

He said no patients, even if they came from a cholera- stricken area, were declared cholera patients unless tests had been done and proved positive for the disease.

"Our health promotion, environmental health and communicable disease control teams are working around the clock to contain the outbreak within defined areas, and we are confident at this stage of success."