No ambulance = death
For Nozikotshi Lulu, December 2011 was anything but joyful. She remembers it as the most painful period of her life. Her son, Mveliso (30), had been working away from home during the course of the year. She looked forward to his homecoming but when he returned home at the beginning of the month he became ill.
A mother's anguish
Nozikotshi Lulu recalls with anguish her son's last days
In South Africa, December means summer holidays, family time, and relaxation. For Nozikotshi Lulu, December 2011 was anything but joyful. She remembers it as the most painful period of her life.
Her son, Mveliso (30), had been working away from home during the course of the year. She looked forward to his homecoming but when he returned home at the beginning of the month he became ill. He had trouble breathing.
Her first instinct was to take him to Jizweni Clinic near her home in Ngqeleni sub-district, 60 km from Mthatha. He was given medication which he religiously took for a week with no improvement. Nozikotshi confesses that she didn’t go to school, so much of what she was told she did not understand. What she knew with certainty was that her beloved first born son was not improving.
Private vehicles deliver patients because there's no ambulance stationed at the hospital
Nozikotshi then arranged to take her son to Canzibe Hospital. Though it is a mere 10 km drive away, this was another ordeal for Mveliso. They were forced to hire a private vehicle to take them to the hospital because there was no ambulance available. When they arrived they were told that there was no functional x-ray machine and were given a referral letter for St Barnabas Hospital near Ntlaza.
At this point, the staff at Canzibe called for an ambulance which did not arrive.
The roads between Canzibe and the N2 highway are notoriously bad; often difficult to navigate, and when it has rained, they are almost impassable. On this day, Nozikotshi, her sister and Mveliso managed to find private transport.
“We left Canzibe around 11am. We had to wait for a private car to be available. They are few and far between,” explains Nozikotshi. “The driver of the vehicle travelled slowly because of how bad the roads are.
“When we arrived at Ntlaza, my son was put on oxygen and x-rays were taken,” says Nozikotshi. “They said we should go back to the hospital but we didn’t return to Canzibe because we realised that he was very serious and we didn’t trust that he would receive the treatment he needed.”
A day later, the family which subsists on Nozikotshi’s pension, decided to consult a private doctor. Again, they hired a private vehicle at a cost of R400 and made the arduous journey to Mthatha.
“Dr Songca said it was pneumonia,” explains Nozikotshi’s neighbour, Nolwandle Kapu. “He charged us R350 for the consultation and R170 for the x-ray and medication. This was about a week before Christmas.”
Nozikotshi brought her son back home and put him to bed hoping that he would be well enough by Christmas Day. He made it through the night but it was a difficult night.
“We didn’t sleep that night. This boy kept us up all night suffering from shortness of breath,” says Nolwandle. “When morning came, we called the ambulance around 5am. But it didn’t arrive and when we called at around 7am the call centre agent said that the ambulance was picking someone up in Lwandile, a village not far from here.
“Mveliso was still able to speak at that time, he kept saying that all he wanted was an ambulance to take him to the hospital,” says Nolwandle.
The ambulance didn’t arrive. By 9am that morning, he had died.
"When the ambulance didn't arrive, we were deeply hurt. We believe that he wouldn't have died had ambulance arrived," says Mveliso's Uncle. "Even if he would have died, he would have at least arrived at the hospital where he could have been helped if it had come."