Three psychiatric patients who escaped from Livingstone Hospital yesterday while awaiting admission to a secure ward are still on the loose.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said nine psychiatric patients had escaped from the hospital in Port Elizabeth during a strike by security guards, but six of them had been found a few hours later at a nearby SA Social Security Agency paypoint.
They had gone to collect their “Christmas grants”.
Sassa is, in fact, paying grants early ahead of the festive season.
The six patients were taken back to the hospital.
Kupelo said while the three missing patients were not dangerous, they needed treatment urgently.
The nine had been awaiting transfer to the secure psychiatric ward at Dora Nginza Hospital when they took off.
Livingstone had no contact information for the families of the missing patients on file and police would be asked to help trace them.
Livingstone Hospital spokeswoman Busi Ngceshe said a nurse doing her rounds at the busy accident and emergency unit had noticed that the patients were not in their allocated area.
“She then asked other nurses to help her find them,” Ngceshe said.
“It is not clear how they left the hospital but, as far as we could ascertain, it was on foot.”
The nine had been wearing their own clothes, not hospital gowns, at the time.
Police spokeswomen Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the police had not yet been approached to help look for the three missing patients.
She said police were monitoring the three state hospitals, including Provincial, during the security guard strike.
The guards, from Mafoko Security, went on strike on Monday.
Mafoko had deployed a new team of guards to the hospitals by yesterday afternoon and armed “riot” teams of guards had been stationed outside the hospitals to stop any possible interference by the striking workers.
Kupelo said while hospitals were usually gun-free zones, they were making an exception in this case.
He said the new guards deployed by Mafoko to work inside the hospital were not armed.
“Mafoko Security [officials] met with hospital management yesterday,” he said.
“They have agreed to provide urgent security coverage with standby staff.
“Mafoko has also secured an interdict against the striking workers.”
Mafoko Security officials could not be reached for comment for a second day.