A task team charged with finding ways to improve security at Pelonomi Regional Hospital in Bloemfontein after a young female doctor was nearly raped while on duty this week, is expected to meet today.
Free State Department of Health spokesperson Mondli Mvambi told The Weekly in a wide ranging telephone interview last night that security had immediately been stepped up by up to 60 percent in terms of manpower and other mechanisms and the task team will be reviewing the measures put in place so far and how to improve them.
“The task team will assess how the measures put in place so far have worked and what other measures can be implemented,” said Mvambi.
“The team comprises managers from the provincial health department, hospital managers, as well as representatives from labour unions and doctors. All the key stakeholders are involved,” he added.
Mondli noted the security boost was meant to ensure the safety of both staff and patients at the hospital so that incidents like the one which happened on Tuesday night do not occur again.
It was also important for all staff to know that the new security measures were not the sole responsibility of the provincial health department, but that all staff should play a role in ensuring improved security.
“We have put in place additional security and all access points are fortified with visible security presence. The issue of security is not only dependent on the department of health, but all staff should play a role. All personnel on call are reminded to utilise the telephone numbers provided to call for escort,” Mvambi explained.
He said the CCTV cameras at the hospital were being constantly monitored and there is continuous contact with the security on the ground. More panic buttons were being put in place so that hospital staff can use them in case of emergency.
“We are complying with all the demands that staff has made to ensure their safety. They have also asked us to thoroughly vet all security officers so that we don’t employ anyone with a criminal record. We now have more visible and uniformed security and we have closed the thoroughfare allowing people walking from Heidedal to Bochabela to go through the hospital grounds. All cars will be searched upon entering and exiting the hospital,” explained Mondli.
The suspect was arrested a few hours after he attempted to rape the 24-year-old medical intern who bit-off a piece of his tongue when a scuffle broke out.
Ironically, the desperate suspect sought medical help at National Hospital but was immediately arrested because word had already been circulated to all health facilities in the city.
“The alleged perpetrator failed to over power the doctor who was resting in one of the staff facilities at the hospital and could not rape rape her,” said Mvambi in an earlier statement.
“He was apprehended… and brought to Pelonomi for positive identification by the doctor. Thereafter, the alleged perpetrator was admitted at Universitas Plastic Surgery. He was operated on early hours of Wednesday for his bitten tongue under police guard. He is being kept and treated in an undisclosed location and will be handed over to the police,” he said, adding there was no indication that the alleged perpetrator was armed.
Mvambi said the alleged perpetrator who hails from Bronville in Welkom, was once admitted at the hospital and had visited the casualty department on Saturday but did not show any signs of ailments but seemed to have social issues.
Upon hearing the news, nursing staff, doctors and some general workers downed tools demanding that the hospital immediately steps up security and ensure the safety of both staff and patients at the hospital.
Mvambi said calm had been restored at the hospital following discussions between the health department, hospital management, and labour unions.
The doctor was said to be receiving all the necessary support she needs including counseling.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thandi Mbambo said in a statement that the suspect will appear in court soon without stating the exact date.
“He is admitted at a local hospital under police guard and will be referred to appear in court as soon as he has recovered,” read part of the brief statement.
Tuesday’s incident is however not the first such at the hospital. In 2010, a 35-year-old doctor specialising in paediatrics was raped by a 16-year-old intruder who had gained access to the hospital.
The doctor was struck with a brick in the face and raped while on her way to the neonatal unit on the hospital’s ground floor.
At that time, the perimeter fencing was said to be under repair and the lights on some of the staircases were not working.
The teenage rapist was jailed for 15 years.