Home South African KZN hospital staff suspended after patient dies in “inhumane conditions”

KZN hospital staff suspended after patient dies in “inhumane conditions”


The patient died in a makeshift shelter in the hospital’s parking lot.

File image. Picture: David Grunfeld The Advocate via AP

Durban – NORTHDALE Hospital medical and nursing department managers were suspended on Wednesday after a patient died in a makeshift shelter in the hospital’s parking lot.

Pietermaritzburg resident Sibusiso Edward Khumalo, 67, died on Saturday morning and his daughter, Hlengiwe Khumalo, complained that the hospital kept possible Covid-19 patients in inhumane conditions.

“It’s a parking lot covered with tent-like material on the sides. My father took his last breath there.”

The Mercury reported that Khumalo complained he was feeling cold, but it is alleged that the nurse said there was nothing she could do about it.

Hlengiwe said her father had been struggling to breathe for most of last week, and was taken to the hospital on Friday night.

She said he was put in a wheelchair and taken to the parking lot. The family have not received her father’s Covid-19 test results.

His death notice from the hospital showed that he died from hypoxia, which is lack of oxygen to the body’s tissues.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu confirmed that Khumalo had received medical treatment in a partially covered flu clinic in the hospital’s parking lot.

On Wednesday Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told SABC news that it was shocking to see what happened.

“We would not like our people to be treated under those circumstances. “I have called for an investigation into this. I am waiting for a full report by the end of the day,” he said.

Simelane-Zulu said an independent investigative team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal had already begun its work.

The precautionary suspensions are to allow for an investigation.

The team is expected to produce a report by Friday and make recommendations. The Health MEC said a temporary structure with adequate heating was erected yesterday.

She said the department’s s infrastructure development unit would fast-track the establishment of a more solid structure.

Simelane-Zulu said urgent and decisive action was needed in such cases in order to send a strong message to managers who apparently abdicate their duties. She said KZN has more than 70 hospitals.

“All of them were given a directive to establish flu clinics to help screen patients for Covid-19. They were even informed that if they could not identify the relevant section within the hospital, because some of our hospitals have spatial challenges, they could take money from their budgets and set up a temporary structure in order to ensure that there is space to put in patients for triaging,” Simelane-Zulu said.

“Many of our hospitals have done that. The problem that we’re having at Northdale is that you have people who are employed to do a job, but they do not. They wait for others higher up to do their work. You get to the facility and find that management does not see anything wrong with having a tent with open spaces at the top, which lets in air.” She said this set-up compromised the health and safety of staff and patients. “It is unacceptable for managers to look for excuses as to why certain things cannot be done.”

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