By SIYANDA MPAKO and ROD AMNER
The body of a Settlers Hospital patient was discovered on the hospital grounds on Friday, 26 August, more than two months after she was discharged.
The deceased, Zukiswa Java, 49, was discovered in a patch of long grass on Settlers’ premises by a local woman walking her dog.
Java was admitted to Settlers Hospital by her family on 14 June and discharged three days later, on 17 June. A relative told Grocott’s Mail Java’s family was concerned she was in “a disturbed mental state and refused to eat or talk”.
According to Eastern Cape Department of Health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda, the hospital made contact with the family through the contact number of the next of kin provided in the patient’s folder, “but unfortunately, the phone kept going to voicemail”.
Dekeda added that the patient was in a ‘stable condition’ and was informed she was ready to be discharged. After unsuccessful attempts to reach the patient’s family using the contact details provided, the patient indicated that she could go home independently.
However, the relative Grocott’s Mail spoke to said Java had been taken to the hospital because she had “symptoms of a person who was not doing OK mentally”.
“The patient was taken to hospital to rectify that. If you discharge this person, even if this person says they are OK, you will need to discharge the person into the care of their family,” the relative said.
When a young family member, a girl, set out to visit the deceased on 23 June, they were informed that the patient had been discharged on 17 June. The girl told her aunt, who then visited the hospital on 24 June.
“The officials made enquiries within the hospital, but no one had seen her,” Dekeda said.
The matter was then reported to the police. SAPS spokesperson Majola Nkohli confirmed that a missing person enquiry was opened on 24 June at the Joza Police Station. The nurses were in contact with the police, and pictures were placed in certain areas as part of the search for the patient.
Dekeda said police constantly communicated with the family until Friday, 26 August, when the Department of Health was informed that the body had been found on the hospital grounds.
The police changed the investigation into an inquest into the cause of her death, Nkohli said.
“We are saddened by the patient’s passing and will continue cooperating with SAPS as they conduct their investigation,” Dekeda said.