Cape Town health facilities have been cleared of wrongdoing in the death of 17-month-old Unabantu Mali, who died on his grandmother’s back after she said she had been turned away from three health facilities.
The toddler’s death in March rocked the Western Cape health establishment, leading to public outrage and prompting Western Cape Health MEC Marius Fransman to appoint an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death.
The investigation, conducted by human rights advocate Denzil Potgieter SC and UCT Dean of Medicine Professor Marian Jacobs, found that the events leading to the baby’s death were not due to the negligence of health facilities.
“There was no clear evidence that Unabantu Mali was turned away from the three health facilities. In actual fact the report revealed that the three facilities had good protocols for managing diarrheal disease and child health emergencies and in this case the health services were compliant with all protocols.”
Contacted about the findings, Unabantu’s grandmother, Ntombizodwa Mali, said she and her daughter Nonceba, Unabantu’s mother, had decided to “let things go and move on” because there was “nothing to do” as the results stated that there was no evidence that the baby had been turned away.
At the time of the baby’s death, Mali said she had tried to get treatment for the child at Nyanga clinic, the Gugulethu Community Health Centre and the Gugulethu Maternal Obstetrics Unit.
The full report of the investigation was not released, however, with Western Cape Health Department spokesperson Faiza Steyn giving the reason that the department could not release confidential patient information without the consent of those involved.
But dealing with the claims against the facilities involved, Steyn said the investigation team had interviewed staff, the family and the grandmother.
“They looked at whether protocol was followed and yes it was.”
Pressed about conditions at health facilities, she said there “will always be problems when people don’t understand how the processes work. Our staff need to up their attitudes and we need to monitor that and we are doing that right now.”
Steyn said feedback would be given to the Mali family and the staff at the health facilities concerned.
She said the report had stressed the impact of social factors such as poverty.
“Both health authorities have committed to communicate more clearly to our communities about the structure of our services, the community’s rights of access and their rights to lodge formal complaints.” — West Cape News