Marisca van der Merwe (22) from Secunda, Mpumalanga, always wanted to be a mother. When her baby girl was finally born in December, however, this young mother barely had three months with her child before she passed away.
Van der Merwe died on 10 March after contracting sepsis following a caesarean section in the Bethal State Hospital. In addition, she was apparently turned away from two other hospitals before her death because the hospitals were overcrowded.
Van der Merwe’s family is now looking for answers and is considering legal action against the Department of Health.
“We are looking for justice for Marisca. It was not her time to go,” says Van der Merwe’s mother, Louise Fourie.
Van der Merwe’s baby daughter, Leanke, was born on 14 December.
According to Fourie, Van der Merwe would initially have given birth naturally, but due to complications she had to undergo an emergency caesarean section.
She was discharged two days later and according to Fourie her wound looked good at that stage.
“After a month, we saw the wound turn yellow at the ends (due to sighing) and the stitches do not dissolve.”
Van der Merwe went to a nurse at a pharmacy in Secunda who took out the stitches. “The sister advised Marisca to further treat the wound with salt water.”
Van der Merwe started to feel ill at the end of February and complained of nausea, fever, headache and severe abdominal pain.
“We took her to the Evander State Hospital on Sunday morning (March 5), where we were turned away. The staff told us there are people who are sicker than Marisca and should be treated first.”
Van der Merwe’s aunt and cousin took her to a private doctor in Witbank in the afternoon and covered the cost of the consultation.
“The doctor did a sonar and saw that an infection wall had formed around her gallbladder. Blood was also found in her urine. Blood tests determined that Marisca’s kidneys were failing due to the septicemia.
“We didn’t realize that the sepsis was already in her blood and affecting her organs.”
Van der Merwe was rushed to the Witbank State Hospital, but returned home several hours later because she did not receive any help.
According to the family, the hospital was dirty with visible human remains and blood in the corridors and on beds. “The staff were also not helpful at all.”
She was taken to the same hospital again on Thursday (March 8) after she complained of being short of breath.
“A file was opened for her and she was put on a drip. She was breathing heavily and sleeping the whole time.”
Van der Merwe died on Friday (March 10) just before 03:00.
The family now feel the hospitals have let them down.
Poor condition of government hospitals
The FF Plus heard about the case and requested an urgent meeting with the MEC for health in Mpumalanga, Sasekani Manzini. The party demands a full report on the suitability of the hospital staff in the Bethal, Evander and Witbank state hospitals.
“The poor state of state hospitals in the country is well known and if the allegations are substantiated, Manzini will have to accept direct responsibility for Van der Merwe’s death,” says Werner Weber, FF Plus leader in Mpumalanga.
The party gives the MEC 14 days to issue the report and will launch further investigations so that the officials involved can be held to account.
Rhewal has made an inquiry to the department of health in Mpumalanga about the matter, but is still waiting for a response. It will be added as soon as we receive it.
Sadness over a child, mother’s death
Van der Merwe’s husband, Terence van der Merwe, and Leanke currently live at Fourie in Secunda.
“Marisca’s death shook us. I cannot accept that my child is gone,” says Fourie.
Leanke was very tearful the week after Van der Merwe’s death and according to Fourie it was because she could no longer “smell or see her mother”.
“Marisca could no longer look after Leanke at all in the last week before her death because she felt too sick.”
Fourie will remember her daughter as the “woman with the beautiful smile and good heart”.
“She was my ray of sunshine and I will miss her very much”.
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