A Durban man whose father’s mouth was infested with maggots after he was admitted to RK Khan Hospital says he will not rest until the staff at the facility pay for neglecting him.
Azaad Ebrahim said he was livid with the hospital after his 52-year-old father Abdul, who suffered a stroke and had mobility issues, was found with maggots in his mouth shortly before his death.
A video of the creatures in his mouth emerged this week, showing the visibly unwell man’s upper lip infested with moving maggots.
Speaking to News24 shortly after his father’s funeral on Wednesday, a distraught Ebrahim said he would do all in his power to ensure others didn’t suffer like his father.
“I do not want others to go through what I have. I took such good care of my father, but the treatment we received at the hospital and the unprofessionalism of the staff is horrendous. That cannot go on.”
His father’s troubles emerged after he was admitted to hospital on June 19.
“My mother came home from work to find his leg turned completely black and had become like jelly. He had previously been to the hospital for sores, but we were told to it was not bad, and given antibiotics and sent home.”
During admission, Ebrahim said nurses were degrading his family because of the strong smell coming from his father.
“The doctor was excellent, but the nurses were so unprofessional, spraying perfume all over, but not engaging us.”
He said it was decided that his father would be operated on as soon as possible. However, days later, no surgery had taken place.
Maggots in the upper lip
On the morning of June 23, Ebrahim said he called the hospital and was told that they were cleaning his father.
“I thought they were brushing his teeth and bathing him. I arrived at 10:00 to visit. When I saw my dad, his upper lip looked a bit swollen.”
Ebrahim said when he inspected closer, he was shocked.
“Maggots were crawling and so active and moving. I lost my mind. I screamed. I couldn’t believe that no one attended to him. The first thing anyone does in the morning is brush their teeth. They couldn’t even do that? Not even a guard came into the room. They just isolated my dad in the room because of the smell.”
He said that after taking a moment to calm himself, he went back to his father to find that nothing had been done.
“When I returned, they still refused to assist. I asked the nurse for utensils and tissue paper and cleaned him myself.”
Ebrahim said nurses only began helping after a relative reported the matter to the Health Professions Council of South Africa on the same day.
He said he was appalled by the hospital.
“I am so traumatised by this whole thing. A hospital is supposed to take care of our health. They could not even brush his teeth. They get paid to brush someone’s teeth. You take an oath to care for patients, but this is how you treat him.”
Ebrahim said his father was possibly not cleaned for the duration of his June admission.
“For five days, they never cleaned my father. I took care of my father every second of my day. I never had a child, girlfriend or family. You couldn’t do a simple thing like brush his teeth. They couldn’t look after his mouth. You see maggots in dead people, not someone who is alive.”
Video should not have been distributed – health department
The Department of Health said it had passed its condolences on to the family. Spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said the department was “extremely concerned about the filming and distribution of footage depicting a patient”.
“Such an act, even if perpetrated by relatives of the patient, as it sometimes happens, constitutes a violation of the patient’s inherent right to privacy and dignity.”
Mafunda said that, although the department was prohibited from divulging clinical details of a patient and how they are managed, it confirmed that it had been treating him.
It claimed that Ebrahim had a history of neglect and suffered from a number of serious ailments.
“Health professionals who were attending to a particular patient were concerned, but not alarmed, by certain developments during treatment”.
Mafunda said necessary protocols had been put in place to “improve his condition”.
She further criticised the media for “attempting to simplify and discuss in the public space clinical patient matters which are confidential, complex and protected by law”.
“Difficulties arise when this happens, as the department is unable to either confirm nor repudiate any allegation, as this would be in contravention of the National Health Act.”
She added: “Clinical matters and related decisions by clinicians on the management of patients are highly complex and may be influenced by a variety of factors, which may not always be understood by laypersons, including – with all due respect – members of the media.”