WATCH | Mother, 76, is tied to hospital benches, forced to lie on floor
"I was devastated to see my mother like that, being tied and sleeping on the floor." These are the words of Stephnie Marais, who found her mom tied to a bench of chairs and lying on the floor of the Mamelodi Hospital.
The family consented to images and videos shared publicly to show how poorly their mother was treated by medical staff.
Martha Marais, 76, was referred to the hospital for treatment as she had been feeling unwell on Tuesday morning, said her daughter.
Stephnie said she had on different occasions contacted the hospital telephonically to check on her mother's progress during the day and was told all was well.
"The hospital staff was quite helpful. I called and was told that she was receiving medical attention with a doctor," she said.
To her surprise, on her arrival home from work in the evening, she found her mother had not returned. She and another family member rushed to the hospital.
"On our arrival, we were told she was in the casualty ward. As we walked down the passage, my sister said 'wait, is that not mom by the benches?'. I screamed. I couldn't believe it," Stephnie told TimesLIVE on Thursday.
She said there had been no nurses in sight at the time.
"I suspect they were changing shifts. We asked for help but were told that everyone was in a meeting, but later got attended to and no one knows who tied my mother up," she said.
Asked about her mother's condition after the incident, Stephnie was heartsore. She said her mother was terrified and looked as if she had been crying for a while.
"She pleaded with us to take her home, she was even shouting and asking that we run out of the hospital because the staff would kill her," she said.
The Gauteng health department said it had been made aware of the incident.
"I have seen the video. It was sent to me this morning, following which I have asked for a report from the hospital," said the department's spokesperson Lesemang Matuka.
Stephnie said her attempts to get answers from the hospital staff were unsuccessful as they kept on shifting the blame.
"I was not given any solid explanation, the night-shift staff said it was the day-shift staff, while some people said my mother was 'restless' and that is why she was tied up," she said.
Stephnie said the act was unjustifiable because even if her mother was restless, professional staff would know how to handle the matter in a humane manner.
In the videos shared on social media by family friend Virginia Keppler, the elderly woman can be seen lying down with both her hands tied behind her back under silver hospital benches. She is near two other women.
In one of the videos, Stephnie can be heard shouting, asking hospital staff if they thought the act was justified. "For me to see my mother like this, is this right?"
She can also be heard apologising to her mother, saying "sorry mama, sorry".
DA health spokesperson Jack Bloom said he was horrified by the incident and had alerted the authorities. "I have sent this to Prof Mac Lukhele, head of the Gauteng health department, for his immediate attention."
Bloom called for a full investigation.
"Mamelodi Hospital is notorious for poor treatment of patients. I hope that the new health MEC Bandile Masuku intervenes urgently to fix the deep-seated problems at this hospital," said Bloom.
The photographs and videos of the incident caused outrage on social media, with some people calling on Marais to sue the hospital.
Asked what the family intended to do, Stephnie responded, "We want answers, but honestly don't know what to do. It hurts, we want our mother to heal from all this first."
Sibling Priscilla Marais, who is a nurse and is out of the country, shared this on Facebook about the treatment of their mother: "This is a total disgrace, hate that hospital, this is definitely not the end of this."
Keppler said in her post: "I hope our new minister of health and police will see this as a criminal act and take steps against the staff of this hospital."