The recent death of Zenizole Vena, a 15-year-old girl who was denied care at the Motherwell NU 11 clinic in the Eastern Cape, has been described as “disappointing” and “regretful” by Health Minister Joe Phaahla. This tragic incident has sparked outrage and calls for accountability within the healthcare system.
The investigation into the allegations of a patient being denied care at the clinic was initiated following a complaint by Michelle Clarke, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of health.
The findings of the investigation, released by health ombud Professor Taole Mokoena, revealed a series of failures that led to Vena’s untimely death. Vena, who left her home in Motherwell on September 17, 2022, to attend a school event in Malabar, never returned home.
On September 21, a 58-year-old woman found her on the street, visibly sick and crying. It was later discovered that she had been gang-raped by two men known to her. The woman took Vena to the clinic, hoping to get her the necessary care and support.
However, the service Vena received at the clinic was described as “appalling” and was deemed to be the cause of her death. The investigation revealed that the nursing staff on duty failed to act professionally and follow the required protocols.
No file was opened for Vena, and she was not properly screened or assessed. The necessary steps to address her condition were not taken, despite the nursing staff’s training on the matter.
The health ombud’s report highlighted the failure to follow the Adult Primary Care Guideline (APC) for patients who have been sexually assaulted.
The clinic staff neglected to appropriately refer Vena to the next level of care, which could have potentially saved her life. These failures in care and negligence were completely avoidable.
In response to the report, Health Minister Joe Phaahla expressed deep concern and emphasized the need for accountability. He stated that a disciplinary hearing should be conducted and the nurses responsible should be reported to the South African Nursing Council.
Additionally, he instructed the Nelson Mandela Bay Health District Office to appoint permanent staff, provide retraining and mentoring, and ensure adherence to the Norms and Standards Operating procedures of Clinics, Batho-pele principles, and Professional nursing code of conduct.
Phaahla further assured that both the National Department of Health and the Eastern Cape Department of Health would closely monitor the implementation of the recommendations from the ombud’s report.
It is crucial to rectify the shortcomings that led to this tragic incident and prevent such failures in the future.
The death of Zenizole Vena serves as a stark reminder of the importance of upholding professional standards in healthcare and providing timely and appropriate care to all patients.
It is a tragedy that a young girl’s life was cut short due to the negligence and failures within the healthcare system. This incident should prompt a comprehensive review of protocols, training, and staffing to ensure that no patient is denied the care they need and deserve.
The Eastern Cape Department of Health must take immediate action to address the systemic issues that allowed this tragedy to occur. It is essential to restore public trust in the healthcare system and ensure that incidents like this do not happen again.
Every patient, regardless of their circumstances, deserves to be treated with dignity, compassion, and professionalism.