Two horrifying cases involving the abuse of elderly women have shocked South Africans on social media in the past week, as videos and photos have gone viral. The one incident took place at a hospital in Pretoria yesterday, and the other at a centre for the elderly in Bloemfontein.
In the first, Virginia Keppler – a former news editor – posted photos and video of a woman with her hands tied behind her back. Virginia said: “This is my aunty Martha Marais, 76, my best friend Stephnie Marais’ mother. Staff at the Mamelodi Hospital tied her hands behind her back and to these chairs, forcing her to to lie down on the cold floor… Nursing staff ignored her cries for help. Disgraceful!”
Nurses reportedly told the patient’s family that Mrs Marais had been tied to the bench because she had become hysterical and pulled out her drip.
Her grandchild told Pretoria East Rekord: “No one deserves to be treated like that, it is inhumane. You don’t do this to a person. She is an elderly person. There is absolutely no excuse.”
Virginia said on Facebook that: “Not even hardened murderers, rapists are treated like this. I hope our new Minister of Health and Police will see this as a criminal act and take steps against the staff of this hospital. This is disgraceful and then they wonder why we do not want to go to this ‘killer’ hospital. This must end right here. Disgraceful!!!!!!!!”
The DA’s Gauteng Shadow Health MEC Jack Bloom said he was “horrified” by the abuse, and has sent the video and photos to Professor Mac Lukhele, Head of the Gauteng Health Department.
“Mamelodi Hospital is notorious for poor treatment of patients. I hope that the new Health MEC Bandile Masuku intervenes urgently to fix the deep-seated problems at this hospital.
“Mrs Marais has been shockingly abused rather than treated with the extra respect one would expect with an elderly person.
“A full investigation is needed so that this never happens again to any other patient,” said Bloom.
Mamelodi Hospital’s clinical manager has reportedly said the hospital is “dismayed and appalled” by the abuse, and agreed that “restraining her in such a manner is both inhumane and insensitive. The hospital management is investigating this matter and those involved will be taken to task. In the meantime, we will offer counselling to the affected parties.”
This is my aunty Martha Marais, 76, my best friend Stephnie Marais mother. Staff at the Mamelodi Hospital tied her hands behind her back and to these chairs, forcing her to to lie down on the cold floor since Tuesday night. Nursing staff ignored her cries for help. Disgraceful! pic.twitter.com/PjO5Q2O72b
— Virginia Keppler (@VKeppler) May 29, 2019
In a separate incident, an elderly lady – Elize Devenish (79) – was knocked down by a staff member at Engo’s Centre for the Elderly in Bloemfontein, Free State, after she tried to take a cup of yoghurt.
As can be seen in the video, Mrs Devenish lay on the ground in pain for a few minutes before she was attended to. She then had to undergo emergency surgery, according to Netwerk24, for a broken hand. Her family have filed a charge of assault against the Ons Tuiste kitchen worker.
The woman’s son told Netwerk24 that he and his wife burst into tears after watching the video. “The shove is one thing,” he said, “but it upset me that she’s been lying there for so long. There are people walking past her, but no one does anything.”
According to SA-News, an internal enquiry is being held, and the home has covered Devenish’s medical expenses.
It’s hoped that by highlighting this case, it will prevent other similar cases and lead to better training of staff in dealing with residents living with dementia.