A 25-year-old woman suffering from severe depression and admitted to Mount Darwin District Hospital disappeared from her ward on October 20 and was found at Concession, some 136km away, two days later unconscious and with her hands tied.
The hospital did not report the patient was missing to relatives or the police until October 22; when the woman’s aunt heard the news she rushed to Mt Darwin Police Station to make the initial missing person’s report.
Wendy Chinomungu of Rushinga was found bruised while her hands were tied with a rope at a farm in Concession. Her face was swollen. She was rushed to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare where she later died. Preliminary checks showed the woman had been sexually assaulted.
Ms Chinomungu had a condition known as melancholia (severe depression) and was admitted on September 30 to Mt Darwin Hospital. Owing to the condition, she was initially unable to walk, bath and eat on her own. She would be carried to the toilet and was experiencing recurring mood swings.
Despite having the family members’ contact details, the hospital staff only informed the aunt two days after she vanished according to the records.
The aunt, Ms Fariya Musandirire was the first to report to the police while the hospital administrator followed up later.
Some farm workers in Concession found the woman lying unconscious three days after she left the hospital and told the farm owner who immediately reported the case to Glendale Police Station. She was rushed to Concession Hospital and was immediately transferred to Parirenyatwa Hospital where she later died.
A post-mortem report shows that the death was due to “severe head trauma”. The pathologist said the death was not a result of natural causes.
When The Herald visited Mt Darwin Hospital, it was clear that the security at the institution was lax. On arrival at the hospital’s main entrance, the security guard on duty did not bother to write down the visitors’ names and vehicle registration numbers. There were no temperature checks, neither were there sanitisation in line with Covid-19 regulations. Cars would get in and out without any searches.
The security fence is badly damaged and no longer serving the intended purpose. In an interview, the hospital’s senior nursing officer Mr Forbes Makamba confirmed the disappearance of Ms Chinomungu and also attributed the incident to laxity.
“Yes I know of the incident. When it happened, I was in Bindura attending a workshop,” he said. “She was admitted here on September 30 after she was brought in by her relatives. The relatives had a recommendation letter from a Roman Catholic priest called Father Simoko.
“She had melancholia. She was easily irritable and withdrawn. She could hardly walk, talk, bath herself and even eat on her own. She could not do anything on her own.
“Her aunt wanted to stay here but I refused because we wanted to examine her and try to establish what could have caused the depression. We suspected the depression could be a result of some family problems, hence we advised the relatives to stay away a bit and allow her to recover.
“After a few days, we noticed some improvements on her health. She was now able to walk and do her laundry. She was also able to eat, but she still had challenges in walking,” Mr Makamba said.
“I informed the relatives that they could now visit Wendy. The day they visited, that is when she had absconded from the hospital. I was away.”
However, Mr Makamba insisted that the patient disappeared on October 22, the day when the police report was made. But other staff said she vanished two days before, when Mr Makamba was still away and the official post-mortem and police documents show that she went missing on October 20.
Bureaucracy at the hospital also contributed to the delay in reporting the missing patient’s case to the police.
“I was told that the nurse on duty that night noticed the patient was missing and she informed the security department. The security details were supposed to immediately report to the administration but they waited until the following morning.
“That is when they informed the administrator who later went to the police,” Mr Makamba said.Mr Makamba said an independent board of inquiry had since been constituted to investigate the case.
Prior to the patient’s disappearance, some expensive juices and other food would be seen on her table daily but no one knew the source.
The Herald tracked down Wendy’s uncle Mr Chikuya Chikuya, who stays in Mudimu village under Chief Dotito, to get an account of what could have transpired to their niece.
Ms Chinomungu was staying with Mr Chikuya, who is married to Mrs Musandirire, prior to her hospitalisation. Mr Chikuya is a brother to Wendy’s late mother.
In an interview, Mrs Musandirire said her niece disappeared on October 20 and that the hospital officials were trying to cover-up for their delay in making a police report. She confirmed all relatives were barred from visiting Ms Chinomungu at the hospital.
“On October 15, we received a text message from Mr Makamba, the matron, telling us that our niece’s health was improving. We asked if we could visit her and he agreed. On that day, we failed to go due to transport challenges.
“On October 22, in the morning, we received a text message from the matron again, advising us to go to the hospital and see a nurse called Karasa. Coincidentally, we were planning to visit our niece on that same day,”’ she said.
Mrs Musandirire did not find her niece in the women’s ward. “At first I thought she had been moved to another bed. I then approached a nurse who was in the ward and she referred me to the sister-in-charge, Mrs Karasa. We sat down and she told me that my niece was missing from the hospital from October 20. It was so unbelievable and I was hurt,” she said.
The nurse reportedly asked the aunt to personally go and report the case to the police.
“She indicated to me that the hospital had not made a police report for a missing person, some two days after her disappearance. She asked me to go and report to the police that my niece was missing from hospital. Is this how Government hospitals handle issues of this nature?
“At first I refused to go to the police, but I later decided to comply. Police officers treated me well and asked me to bring my niece’s photos to assist in the search. Later in the day, we heard she had been found at Concession,” she said.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the incident saying Chinomungu’s aunt was the one who reported the case. -Herald