More than a year after Shonisani Lethole died in a Gauteng hospital, his family awaits a resolution

20 July 2021 - 06:29
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
Shonisani Lethole died in hospital a year ago after complaining of neglect.
Image: #JusticeforShoni/Change.org Shonisani Lethole died in hospital a year ago after complaining of neglect.

A year after businessman Shonisani Lethole died at Thembisa hospital as a result of poor healthcare — and five months after a damning health ombud report — plans to fix the issues are grinding along.

Meanwhile, no disciplinary action will be taken against hospital CEO Dr Lekopane Mogaladi, as his contract ended on January 31 and was not renewed, Gauteng health spokesperson Kwara Kekana said.

The report recommended Mogaladi should be charged with, among others, his administration's failure to provide food for Lethole for prolonged periods, and for signing misleading reports to the former health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku and the ombud.

“However, it is important to note that Dr Mogaladi has challenged the non-renewal of his fixed-term contract and the proceedings in relation to this are still pending before the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council,” the department said.

Lethole died on June 29 last year after receiving substandard and negligent care at the hospital, according to the report issued by health ombud Prof Malegapuru Makgoba in January this year.

Before he died, Lethole, 34, took to social media to reach out to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize about what he termed deplorable conditions at the hospital and claimed he was being starved.

The lawyer for the family, Tzi Brivik, this week said the recommended mediation process is likely to take place three weeks from now after the premier and the MEC indicated they battled “to get a suitable person to mediate”.

“We would like to give mediation a chance. Our client is willing to attend,” Brivik said.

Family spokesperson Ndinnanyi Siminya said he had been advised not to comment on the matter for fear of jeopardising the pending mediation process.

At the time of his death, Lethole was the COO of Entreprenerdy, an online research platform aimed at helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses. He also helped local artists with opportunities in the UK.

He left behind his mother Patricia, father Albert and sister Dakalo Lethole.

Before the release of the ombud's report, the family said not knowing what really happened to Lethole has been hard for all of them.

“With the release of the health ombud’s report, we finally know the facts of how he died,”  the family said.

The report found that Lethole was not offered food during his stay in hospital for a total of 100 hours and 54 minutes.

It made a number of recommendations, key among them that the Gauteng health department and Thembisa Hospital should institute disciplinary inquiries against 20 officials on various charges related to their failure of duty of care to Lethole.

The department is yet to respond on whether disciplinary action was taken against the remaining 19 staff members.

The department said this was an “ongoing process”.

It said the state attorney was appointed to assist the department's `labour relations unit in formulating and drafting the charges.

“Officials have been categorised in accordance with the seriousness of their alleged misconducts and this will also assist with shortening the process.”

“Justice for Shoni Lethole” spokesperson Borrie la Grange said there had been no proactive updates from the health MEC or her department in implementing the recommendations from the health ombud for urgent corrective measures at the hospital. They have been campaigning for the hospital to be held to account.

But the department said it was also complying with the recommendation that the MEC must appoint a forensic and audit firm to conduct a “fit for purpose assessment of the leadership and management staff at the hospital”.

“With regards to the appointment of an independent forensic and audit firm, a detailed recovery plan has been done and is being implemented. The plan includes ongoing training of the senior managers,” the department said.

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