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PUBLIC HEALTH

Calls for attempted murder charges after theft of oxygen supply pipe at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Calls for attempted murder charges after theft of oxygen supply pipe at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital
Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. (Photo: Flickr / Amander Son)

‘The people who stole the copper pipe … intentionally put the lives of 24 patients at risk, 19 of whom were on life support and depended on access to oxygen through artificial ventilation,” said Gauteng MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko

The Gauteng MEC for Health and Wellness, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, has urged police to spare no effort in their attempts to find those who put Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital patients’ lives at risk.  

This was after the theft on Monday of a 10m copper pipe which supplies oxygen to the main Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital.  

“The people who stole the copper pipe should not just be charged with theft but also with attempted murder. They intentionally put the lives of 24 patients at risk, 19 of whom were on life support and depended on access to oxygen through artificial ventilation,” said Nkomo-Ralehoko.  

A statement issued by the Gauteng Department of Health on Tuesday stated that clinicians at the facility noticed the flow of oxygen was lower than normal and reported it to the Department of Infrastructure Development, which is responsible for the plant room from where the stolen pipe runs. This led to the discovery that the oxygen supply pipe had been tampered with.  


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Read more in Daily Maverick: “Crisis at Chris Hani Baragwanath ICU after mystery visitor cuts oxygen” 

Patients in the unit were immediately evacuated to another ward, where they continued receiving oxygen. A contractor was called, and the copper pipe was replaced.  

A case was opened on Tuesday afternoon with Diepkloof SAPS, confirmed police spokesperson Colonel Noxolo Kweza. “We have opened a theft charge,” she added.  

The process of moving patients back into the main ICU will commence on Wednesday, 21 December, according to the statement.  

Health department spokesperson Foster Mohale said the National Department of Health had been informed of this “life-threatening incident, which is tantamount to [the] attempted murder of innocent and vulnerable patients”.  

“We appeal to communities to join hands with the law enforcement agencies and our authorities across the country to enable our health workers to perform their duties, and patients to receive much-needed services at a safer place,” he added.  

Phumelele Khumalo, the spokesperson for the hospital, had not responded to questions by the time of publication. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Who buys this stolen copper? Charge them too.

    • Ian Gwilt says:

      They never find them, because there are so many small time operators.
      10M of pipe is worth peanuts
      But the damage is huge
      We had no power for 3 days because a portion of cable was stolen
      It was replaced and guess what, gone again within days
      The municipality, local forums and security all trying, not a sign of SAPS

  • Fritz Jesch says:

    Such barbaric theft should be met by barbaric punishment!

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    Well, if after this long, there have been no murder charges levelled for the Life Esidemeni tragedy, with the Gauteng Health Department not covering itself in glory, then this will surely not even cause a ripple in anyone’s conscience or political will.

  • Michael Clark says:

    Life is indeed cheap in SA. I cant understand why they bothered to report it to the police. The hospital needs to get private proffesional investigators to solve this problem.

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