Only doctor in district outraged by demands that she save farmer's life

After a brutal farm attack in Porterville, 65yo Gerhard Nel found no doctors at the hospital. A doctor on leave was affronted at being called and insisted on sending another doctor





Jul 8, 2024

Only doctor in district outraged by demands that she save farmer's life

Western Cape police are intensifying their search for the perpetrators of a brutal farm attack in Porterville that left a 65-year-old man dead and his wife traumatized. The provincial health department is also investigating the absence of a doctor when the critically injured victim was brought to hospital.

Gerhard Nel died from multiple stab wounds after five men forcibly entered his home on the Tevrede farm early on 1 July. His wife, 63-year-old Barbara, was tied up while the attackers ransacked the property. She managed to escape and alert neighbors.

The attack, believed to be motivated by robbery, has yet to result in any arrests. “They tied up his wife while they ransacked the premises. The motive for this attack is believed to be robbery. No arrests have yet been made,” police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi told News24.

The chairperson of the Bergsigpark Home Owners' Association, Hendrik van Taak, recounted the events following the attack. Hugo Lambrechts, the son of the farm owner and a member of the local farmers' watch group, was the first to arrive at the scene. He rushed Nel to Lapa Munnik Hospital, where it was discovered that no doctor was available.

Upon arrival at the hospital, it was found that no doctor was available to attend to Nel, who was in critical condition. Lambrechts called his father, who in turn contacted Nicolaas de Villiers, another member of the farmers' watch, in a desperate bid to find a doctor.

Van Taak described the frantic search for medical assistance. “We had a doctor living just a few houses away. Despite loud knocking and shouting, the doctor did not come out to help,” he said. Eventually, Van Taak and De Villiers managed to contact the doctor, who stated she would call the doctor on duty but did not come herself. By the time they reached the hospital, Nel had succumbed to his injuries.

The provincial health department confirmed that the on-call doctor had gone home to rest after attending to several emergencies. “The doctor on standby was at home when the patient was brought to the facility. The district management team is looking into the circumstances regarding this incident,” said spokesperson Leensie Lötter. The department cited limited staff capacity at Lapa Munnik Hospital, which necessitates doctors working on a standby basis during shifts.

The health department has received a formal complaint about the incident and will follow the normal complaints procedure, providing written feedback to the complainant in due course. It was noted that qualified nursing staff treated Nel immediately upon arrival, and a doctor did come to the hospital after contact was established.

Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Ivan Meyer condemned the attack, calling it a tragedy that strikes at the heart of the rural economy. “Every farmer and agri-worker deserves the right to be treated with dignity. An attack on a farmer or agri-worker directly attacks our rural economy,” he said.

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture has logged the attack on its rural safety dashboard, and it will be monitored by the Department of Police Oversight and Community Policing's Court Watching Brief. “Like all our residents, our farm workers and owners should be able to go about their business of feeding the nation and boosting our economy without the anxiety of being targeted by criminals,” Meyer added.

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