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Johannesburg, South Africa – An Eastern Cape nurse is at odds with an Organisation over charges of assaulting a patient who sought care at a hospital.

On the morning of February 26, Thobeka Mxenge, 23, (not her actual name), went to the Alfred Nzo District Community Health Care Centre in the Eastern Cape, where Somhlahlo reportedly violated her rights to health care and dignity.

The Passionate Unlimited Peers in Action (Pupa) has petitioned the health department to cancel Luyolo Somhlahlo’s nursing license.

Mxenge awakened on that fateful Sunday with acute stomach discomfort. A friend and a neighbor drove her to the hospital right away. When they arrived, a male nurse named Somhlahlo, who worked there, allegedly received them with hostility.

Mxenge described the terrifying incident in writing. “On February 25, 2023, at 7 pm, I felt discomfort at the base of my stomach, but I assumed the ache was caused by the healed scar of my prior operation (cesarean delivery) since it was chilly because it generally gets unpleasant on cold days.

“In the early hours of the next morning, around 4 am, I went to the toilet still in pain. I was wearing only a shirt I had worn the previous night. I grabbed a jacket, wrapped myself with a towel, and went outside to the toilet. I wondered why I was in so much pain and if it were normal for a pregnant woman to have stomach aches,” said Mxenge.

While in the toilet, she called out for her flatmate to aid her. Mxenge said her flatmate came running to the toilet to find out why she was screaming. The screams were so loud that a neighbour looked in hopes of investigating the source of the screams.


The two women realised the neighbour was looking out the window and asked him to drive them to the facility.

“We found security guards at the gate, and they said we should wait for them to wake up the nurses who would assist us. We then entered the clinic, and a female helped me with braids, but I could not see her name tag properly.

“There were two other males inside the clinic. The lady asked me to urinate and asked whether I was pregnant. I responded that I was four months pregnant. One of the males said I must get onto the bed and open my legs, and then he inserted a finger and then said I was indeed pregnant and that the pain I was experiencing was due to the water coming out. He inserted his finger again, and water came out,” she said.

She claimed she was told to raise her top to determine whether she was pregnant.

“I was crying, and the male said I should not make noise, but I responded that it was painful. The male later said I must push, and when I did so, I closed my mouth. I tried to push for a while, and he complained that I was wasting their time because they left other patients on the other side,” Mxenge said.

Soon later, Mxenge gave birth to a stillborn baby. Somhlahlo allegedly told Mxenge to wipe the blood from the deceased child’s face. Despite the anguish, she felt bound to obey Somhlahlo’s orders.

“He then said I am disrespecting him. Soon afterwards, the female returned with an injection and told me it was to stop the bleeding. I was not paying attention to the third person because he was not doing anything. After the injection, the other male asked me to wake up and see this thing I had just given birth to and enquired about the neighbour I had accompanied me to the clinic. It must have been around 5.45am. He then went outside to call my house-mate,” she said.

“He then asked who would be called, and I told them to call my neighbour because I knew my brother would not pick up the phone then. This man asked me to take a picture to show my friend, but he took my phone and a photo of the baby. When he came back, he told me to lay on my back so that he could clean me. He then cut the umbilical cord and asked for something to wrap around the baby,” she said.

Pupa executive director Khanyisa Dunjwa described Mxenge’s psychological condition, saying the victim was in agony, distressed, hurt, disappointed, and didn’t know what to do with the foetus. She explained that burying the foetus in the garden was the usual practice in the community because many people bury their loved ones in their yards.

She stated that the organisation took it upon itself to provide emotional assistance to the ladies. Dunjwa stated that Pipa will continue to provide psychosocial assistance to both young ladies and argued that the nurse should be penalised for his actions. Since then, the organisation has filed a formal complaint with the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDoH).

Dunjwa said, “The Department has acted swiftly on the matter. An investigation started on February 27, and the victim and her friend gave statements on March 2 to investigators in the department. We want the health department to undress the issue of unfriendly youth services, we need all health providers to practice the Batho Pele principles, and we would like the perpetrator removed from the system because his actions were inhumane and degrading”.

According to a statement released by the department, it will gather information from each party involved to help in the inquiry. The nurse in issue has also been removed from the maternity unit and the Health Centre until the inquiry is completed, according to the statement.

“We are concerned that such an incident could have happened at our facility. Such behaviour is unacceptable, and should the allegations be proven true, proper disciplinary action will be taken against the official. We cannot afford to have such allegations against the department. Such will not be tolerated,” said Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth.

The South African Nursing Council (SANC) stated that they were aware of Mxenge’s charges against Somhlahlo but were ignorant of the petition. In accordance with the SANC mission, the council specified that the matter will be resolved between the SANC and the practitioner.

“The matter will be investigated through the relevant procedures and structures of the SANC. Each case is investigated based on its merits, and due process is followed in line with regulatory frameworks and Standard Operating Procedures,” said SANC’s Registrar and CEO, Professor Ntombifikile Mtshali.

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