Free State health MEC Montseng Tsiu has expressed regret that a woman who was attacked on her farm at the weekend could not not get urgent treatment at Pelonomi Regional Hospital, saying it was battling with an influx of emergency cases on the day.
Award winning farmer Mimie Jacobs was brutally attacked at Rosemead Farm in Sautpan, just outside Bloemfontein on Saturday night after three male assailants armed with knives force-opened her kitchen door and demanded cash.
According to the police, the men threatened to kill her if she did not give them the money. Jacobs did not have cash with her so they demanded her bank card and the PIN and she obliged.
One of the suspects, said the police, was communicating on a cellphone with another person that he gave card information and the PIN.
The withdrawal is said to have failed on the other side as Jacobs had already exceeded her daily limit.
The suspects are said to have fled the scene with her cellphone bankcard and a laptop. She suffered numerous stab wounds including one to the head.
Tsiu told the Free State Weekly on Tuesday that the situation was made worse by the fact that there was only one doctor in the casualty unit at the hospital on the day.
“The incident was reported to me on Monday… and indeed the farmer was brought to Pelonomi Hospital,” said Tsiu.
“What went wrong was that on the night in question, Pelonomi had a lot of patients that came in with injuries. You will realise that Pelonomi is situated next to a township where there is a lot of violence that happens during weekends. There were many patients that were assisted on the day. What happens when patients come in, we triage them, that is we try and see which patients are in danger and need immediate attention. That’s what happened on that day,” she explained.
The MEC said she was told the limited started with those that needed immediate attention because their lives were in danger and stabilised them before going to the others.
“The other problem I heard (from hospital staff) was that… they had only one doctor in the casualty department. And as you know, we are still trying to increase the number of doctors in our hospitals. That is why the Premier has announced that we have to employ about 400 more doctors in our hospitals in the coming financial year. We have a lot of shortages when it comes to doctors and nurses. We need to increase their numbers so that they are able to attend to our patients as quickly as possible,” note Tsiu.
The woman was wounded on the head and the tip of the knife broke off and was stuck in her skull. They then tied her up with an electric cable and forced her to make an e-wallet payment. She was then rushed to Mediclinic where where the knife tip was immediately removed.
The farmer’s brother Graham Jacobs said the 2016 Free State Female Farmer of the Year Award winner was recovering well under the care of her family.
“She is recovering well from the injuries, but she is still traumatised. The attack was brutal and it’s not something that should happen to anyone. We are however very disappointed with the service at Pelenomi. They should urgently work on improving services there,” said Graham.
Free State Agriculture risk analyst Dr Jane Buys condemned the attack saying it compromises the situation in rural areas as it is difficult to say whether it is an isolated incident or a new criminal trend.
“We condemn any attack in the rural areas because a threat to one is a threat to all. It affects all farmers including emerging and large scale commercial farmers. It creates a sense of fear and discomfort,” said Buys who leads the organisation’s desk for security risk.
Buys praised the neighbouring farmers and the police for their quick response to Jacobs’ distress call saying such urgency is important in farming communities.
She expressed hope that the suspects will be apprehended and successfully prosecuted.
Provincial police spokesperson Sam Makhele said no arrests have been made, but police were following several leads.
He assured farmers that rural security remains a priority to them.
“We are following several leads at the moment which we are not at liberty to share. We are doing everything to ensure the safety of the farmers… that’s why we have allocated more vehicles and manpower for rural policing,” said Makhele.
Agriculture and rural development MEC William Bulwane condemned the alleged attack saying it makes women live in fear and limit their ability to effectively participate in the economy.
“The acts of violence against women undermine their right to freedom and makes us doubt the very foundation of our democratic society and commitment to human rights,” said Bulwane.
He added the department is also concerned with the rising incidents of farm attacks and calls for stringent measures to be put in place.
The MEC wished the farmer a speedy recovery and urged anyone with information to contact police so that the perpetrators can be brought to book.