Call for Justice: Viral assault on disabled teen at KZN hospital sparks fury and investigation

A screen grab from a video shows security guards standing by the hospital bed of a patient at Ladysmith Hospital

A screen grab from a video shows security guards standing by the hospital bed of a patient at Ladysmith Hospital

Published Oct 2, 2023


There is growing anger and concern over the actions of the nursing staff at Ladysmith Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal where a 13-year-old male patient - who is believed to be disabled - was captured on cellphone footage being assaulted by two security guards.

On Monday the health non-profit organisation, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), sent a team of activists to the hospital to investigate the horror incident that went viral online at the weekend.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health said that the two security guards have been dismissed by their employer and the matter has been reported to the police.

Mzamo Zondi, the KZN provincial manager for the TAC - that advocates for a quality healthcare system - said that the nursing staff on duty at the time should be immediately suspended.

“What is more heartbreaking is that in that video you can hear the staff saying in isiZulu to beat him. They did absolutely nothing to stop it, and in fact, we believe that the video was taken by one of the nursing staff,” he said.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health confirmed in a statement that it had instituted an urgent investigation into the incident and internal disciplinary processes against the nursing staff implicated in the matter were under way.

“It is believed that the incident took place on Thursday evening, and was brought to the attention of hospital management on Friday.

“The security company implicated in the matter was informed about the incident, and immediately took action against the employees,” the department said.

The department confirmed that the patient suffers from a disability and was a resident of a place of shelter and had been moved to another health-care facility in Durban.

Zondi said that it was not the first time that security guards had been captured beating a patient at a hospital in KZN, saying it was concerning and “disgusting”.

“There could be many causes for this. Firstly, why are the security guards being called in to assist with a patient. This could be because the nurses are under-resourced or do not have adequate training to restrain a patient. What occurred at this hospital is disgusting and should be thoroughly investigated,” he said.

Zondi, whose organisation advocates, and campaigns within the healthcare system to ensure that all public healthcare users can access quality and dignified healthcare, said they often see patients, especially those suffering with HIV, Aids and TB disengaged from the healthcare system because of apathetic nurses.

“I don't want to label all the nurses the same, as we have very good and caring nurses in the healthcare system, but there are some nurses in the system that have caused patients to disengage from the care they need and don’t go for their medication because of the action of some nurses. We need to have a serious look into the action of some of our nurses,” he said.

Zakhile Xaba, a civil society activist and a member of TAC agreed.

“The fact that this patient was disabled makes this whole situation even more sad. We are calling for a criminal investigation into all those involved,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said the department was “shocked and appalled by the incident”.

“MEC Nomagugu Simelane has made it clear that the safety and well-being of patients is our priority, and that their abuse under any circumstances, and in any way, shape or form, will not be accepted.

“We can confirm that the matter has been reported to the police, and to the Department of Social Development. We can also confirm that a disciplinary process is under way into this matter.

“This process will look into, among others, where the nurses were when the incident took place; who called the security guards; and why the patient was assaulted,” Maphisa said.