The South African Floor Polisher Massacre -

  1. Reported in the Cape Times.

    The paper reports that every Friday over a period of months a couple of years ago, hospital staff found the patient occupying a certain bed in intensive care lying dead with no apparent cause. At first it seemed coincidental. Then doctors feared a 'killer disease'.

    Deaths continued.

    Finally, a nurse noticed the Friday cleaning lady doing her weekly chores. This maid would enter the ward, unplug the life-support system beside the bed, plug in her floor polisher, clean the ward, and once again plug in the patient, leaving no trace of the cause of the patient's death.

    How many died in the South African Floor Polisher Massacre? Possibly several. The Free State health and welfare department won't comment but is investigating.
  2. Visit betts profile page

    About betts

    Joined: Oct '01; Posts: 1,024; Likes: 20
    Nursing Mgmt.


  3. by   boggle
    Betts, is this for real? It's so bizzare that it sounds like one of those urban legends. Anyway to validate it before the story spreads???
  4. by   betts





    ADDRESS xxxx x
    x xxxxxxx xxxx
    xxxxxx xxx
    xx xxx
    TELEPHONE xxxx xxx xxxx
    MESSAGE PAGER xxxxx xxx xxx
    DATE OF BIRTH xx/xx/xxxx
    (Full Registration 12.8.94) xxxxxxx


    School St. James Independent School, Victoria, London, SW1.
    (Jan 1976 - July 1987)
    O Levels English language, English literature, History, Maths, Physics,Chemistry, Law, Greek, Latin, Religious Studies.
    (June 1984 & 1985 - Oxford & Cambridge Board)
    A levels Biology, Chemistry, Physics.
    (June 1987 - Oxford & Cambridge Board)
    Medical School The London Hospital Medical College
    (Sept 1988 - July 1993)

    Degree MB, BS
    (July 1993 - University of London)

    Diploma MRCS
    (Royal College of Surgeons of England)
    (December 1999)


    Feb 1995 Attended the Havering Hospitals induction course in Accident & Emergency Medicine.
    April 1996 Approved Training Course in Ionising Radiation Protection. Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital Site.
    Jan 1999 'Basic Surgical Skills' course at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
    March 1999 ATLS 'Advanced Trauma Life Support' course at Stevenage Hospital.
    Jan 2000 Immediate Medical Care 'Crowd Doctor' at Sporting Events Course.
    June 2000 ALS 'Advanced Life Support' course at Brent Cross ALS.
    Sept 2000 PALS 'Paediatric Advanced Life Support' course at Southampton Hospital.


    1. Whilst working at Princess Alexandra Hospital Accident & Emergency Department, I carried out an audit of the department's 'ReMaSS' patient attendance and medical coding computer network. I came up with a large number of suggestions for improvements and increased productivity, many of which were taken up and implemented over the next few months.
    2. I have presented many other audits throughout the time of my training including the Hepatopancreaticobiliary Audit whilst at Hammersmith Hospital, and the Burns Audit whilst at St. Andrews Plastic Surgery Unit.
    3. I currently have a paper in preparation for publication. The title is 'Exposing the myth concerning Parrish's Chemical Food and its relation to Basal Cell Carcinomas'.


    1. As you will later read, a major interest of mine is the production and publication of medical reference databases for use on palmtop computers. I have already published a number of these databases, mostly for use on Psion computers, and there are thousands of people around the world using them. One of these medical programs has been released commercially and continues to be a best-seller.
    2. On a lighter note, I have created and maintain what is probably the largest medical humour website on the internet.


    I am currently an Intensive Care SHO at University Hospital Lewisham. This post is to give me a familiarity with the care of both unconscious and critically ill patients.
  5. by   betts
    Dr. Jason Wolfe...
    Dates Description
    Aug 1993 - Jan 1994 HO General Surgery.
    The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel.
    (3 Months Cardiothoracic Surgery with Messrs Wood and Magee, and 3 months General and Plastic Surgery with Messrs Earlam and Niranjan).
    Feb 1994 - July 1994 HO General Medicine.
    Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, Essex.
    (3 Months Chest Medicine & Care of the Elderly with Drs Waller and Morgan, and 3 months Cardiology and Care of the Elderly with Drs Milne and Ambepitiya).
    Aug 1994 - Dec 1994 Motorcycle tour of Europe.
    A six month trip travelling on my motorbike, taking in all the major sites of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic. I wrote a book about my adventures during these travels.
    Feb 1995 - July 1995 SHO Accident & Emergency Department.
    Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, Essex.
    Consultant: Mr Keith Harvey.
    Aug 1995 - Jan 1996 Locum SHO posts in Accident & Emergency and Medicine.

    This was following a motorcycle accident which injured my thumb and prevented me from taking up a surgical post whilst it healed.

    1 Year Surgical Rotation at Hammersmith Hospital, London.
    Feb 1996 - July 1996 SHO in Trauma & Orthopaedics.
    Hammersmith Hospital Rotation.
    Consultants: Messrs Evans, England, Coombs & Strachan.
    Aug 1996 - Jan 1997 SHO in General & Hepatopancreaticobiliary Surgery.
    Hammersmith Hospital Rotation.
    Consultants: Professor RCN Williamson & Mr NA Habib

    2 Year Surgical Rotation at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow.
    Feb 1997 - July 1997 SHO in Orthopaedics & Back Surgery at PAH.
    (Consultant - Mr Hussein)
    Aug 1997 - Jan 1998 SHO in Orthopaedics & Plastics at PAH.
    Orthopaedic Consultant - Mr Hill,
    Plastics Consultant - Mr Alvarez
    Feb 1998 - July 1998 SHO Accident & Emergency Dept at PAH.
    Consultants - Mr Keith Harvey & Mrs Judith Fisher
    Aug 1998 - Jan 1999
    SHO Ophthalmology at PAH.
    Consultants - Mr Fawcett, Miss Flaye & Mr Vempali

    Following that :-
    Feb 1999 - May 1999
    Locum SHO posts in Surgery, Plastics, Orthopaedics, A&E and Ophthalmology.
    June 1999 - Feb 2000
    SHO Plastic Surgery at the St Andrew's Unit, Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford.
    (Including various elements of General Plastics, Burns Unit, and Hand Surgery).
    Feb 2000 - May 2000
    Full time work producing a commercial medical application called 'MediNotes'. This program is already a best seller on the EPOC platform.
    June 2000 - Nov 2000
    Locum Specialist Registrar (LAS) in Accident & Emergency Medicine at Southampton General Hospital.
    Consultants - Mr Heyworth & Mr Clancy.

    Nov 2000 - July 2001
    SHO Anaesthetics at Southend General Hospital.
    Many consultants, including Dr Woodham (Postgraduate Clinical Tutor)

    July 2001 - Sept 2001
    SHO Intensive Care at University Hospital Lewisham.
    Consultants - Dr Van Heerden, Dr Barrera, & Dr Mostert.



    My future career intention is to specialise in Accident & Emergency Medicine. At the moment I am working as an Intensive Care SHO at University Hospital Lewisham.

    I have always enjoyed the wide variety of cases which can be seen in the A&E setting and relish the speciality's proclivity for acute cases. I am a member of the British Association for Accident & Emergency Medicine.

    Up to this point, I have pursued a higher qualification in surgery as a stepping stone to the registrar grade in A&E. I have nevertheless aimed to make my surgical training as relevant to a career in A&E as possible. I have already completed 15 months as an SHO in Accident & Emergency (plus 5 months as a registrar), as well as 18 months total doing Orthopaedics and Trauma. I consider my training in Ophthalmology to be particularly relevant to my future experience and feel in general that the aptitude of SHO's in dealing with acute eye conditions is one aspect which could be greatly improved in many A&E departments.

    I have 14 months training in Plastic Surgery (6 months of which was allied with Orthopaedics) and from this I have attained not only an appreciation of the methods and aesthetics of closing wounds well, but also have gained substantial experience in the management of burns and hand injuries. The St. Andrews Unit in Broomfield, Chelmsford has the largest burns unit in Europe, and as the burns SHO, I was responsible for presenting the daily ward rounds and also in general for the day to day management of patients on the ward. Eight of the beds on the burns unit are intensive care beds, and so in conjunction with the anaesthetists on the unit, I was able to gain an appreciation of the management of these critically ill patients.

    Most recently, I have completed eight months of training in Anaesthetics as a SHO. This post was to give me a familiarity with the care of the unconscious patient and the opportunity to become fluent at airway management and intubation.

    My ultimate aim is to obtain a numbered registrar training post in Accident & Emergency Medicine. Whilst I do have substantial experience in many aspects of A&E medicine, I fully realise that because I have taken the surgical route, there are still some gaps in my training. In the time before I join a training rotation, I would especially like to gain some extra experience in General Medicine, Cardiology, or Paediatrics and so if any such posts are advertised, I will endeavour to take up one of these posts in the knowledge that it will contribute to my overall training.
  6. by   Zee_RN
    That still sounds very bizarre. Our facility never polishes floor of an occupied room. And our ventilators ALARM when it is unplugged. And the nurses would notice on the alarming monitors that a patient was bradying down or pressure dropping or apneic or something.... Patients usually don't just *die* without any warning--at least not those on life support. They're not just found "lying dead" in ICU. Maybe this was a chronic vent unit and NOT an ICU?
  7. by   betts
    This occured in South Africa, and no-doubt in an impoverished facility. I've listed the Doctor's email,ask him.
  8. by   boggle
    Whoa Betts!! My post was not an attack. My concern was that you were "being had". No offense intended, honestly!! Your page after page post of the doctor's C.V. did not defend or support the story. What were you getting at there?

    I'm a bit sensitive to the rumor/urban legend phenomenon. I've seen so many people hurt/ frightened by them.

    So many entertaining, even funny "really this is true" stories spread and grow but are not factual. Still their power to hurt the person, hospital, country, ethnic group etc. is strong. (Been there!!!)

    So that's why I replied to your post. Sorry if it sounded personal.

  9. by   kewlnurse
    I have to admit when I saw the title i thought it was a joke, but man, could you imagine. I can see how that would happen, floor polishers can be noisey and mute roiom alarms, they may also have old equipment with out alarms...
  10. by   JeannieM
    I haven't determined whether this story is true or not, but I do agree with boggle about urgan legends and the harm they can cause. I'm the world's worst about getting upset at medical things that get forwarded to me, when I know they aren't, or can't be true! Just yesterday I got the one about the CA125 "definitive diagnostic" test for uterine cancer. Not too long ago, there was the one about the fire department coming through the ICU hospital window of some dying child in Arizona with a ladder to say goodbye! (If the kid didn't expire from the shock, I bet half of the other patients did!). I just wish people would make some effort to verify the accuracy of these e-mails before they forward them.
  11. by   betts
    I assure you that No-Offense taken,I was just doing what we all do instinctively; "Covering My Butt!" I also hate urban legends and hoaxes and use this site:
  12. by   Zee_RN
    from urbanlegends (

    "Summer 1996 saw this hilarious yet chilling story take the Internet by storm. In an article purportedly from the 13 June 1996 Cape Times ("Cleaner Polishes Off Patients"), it quickly became the story of the moment. Various publications picked it up and ran it as a news item, further adding to the legend's credibility.

    "Bottom line: no matter how many papers you might have read that said different, there were no Friday massacres in Pelonomi Hospital, no murdering floor cleaners, no overly-callous hospital spokespeople imperiously intoning, "The enquiry is now closed." It's folklore, pure and simple -- a tall tale that got loose, then went on a rampage.

    "How did this amazing story come to be taken as a news item? As always, through a misunderstanding. The legend had been around forever, so Die Volksblad (a small yet widely-circulated rural South African newspaper) took it upon itself to get to the bottom of this persistent rumor. Part of that effort to uncover the truth resulted in a Die Volksblad article asking those related to the victim(s) to come forward.

    "That article was picked up by Die Burger, and it was Die Burger's article which Cape Times got hold of. In much the same way children playing a game of "Telephone" will invariably garble the message, Cape Times' version came out as a news story, not as a rural paper's attempt to sort fact from fiction. From there the tale went to other publications, very few of whom bothered to check either with Pelonomi hospital or Die Volksblad.

    "Those journalists who checked with Cape Times (and not all of them did even this much) were told that yes, it had run a story about this. Unknown both to the reporters doing the asking and Cape Times personnel doing the answering, the version made popular by the Internet and the actual Cape Times article weren't the same. The Internet version had been greatly embellished, further garbling the already hopelessly garbled and creating by the stroke of a few electrons a suitably cold-hearted but entirely fictional spokeswoman for Pelonomi Hospital.

    "From there on in, it became a zoo, with publications such as New Scientist and the Sunday Telegraph claiming this as a news item. And why not indeed? Cape Times was telling them it was.

    "South African folklorist (and all around neat guy) Arthur Goldstuck was involved with this tale almost from the moment it appeared. His fascinating Cleaner Polishes Off Patient FAQ is filled with an incredible depth of detail about this legend.

    "Although the 'murdering South African floor cleaner' tale was new in 1996, its plot was as old as the hills. "
  13. by   boggle

    I love that urban legends site!! Have visited it many times and had a few laughs at myself over stories I've bought into,(hook, line and sinker!). :chuckle
  14. by   kids
    My 19 yo (today!) still won't eat at Taco Bell because he he doesn't want a cock roach egg to get lodged in a salavary gland and hatch!