Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize has said he was shocked to learn that patients were being treated in a “shabby, shack tent” at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, which was meant to be a fever clinic.
The hospital made headlines after 67-year-old Sibusiso Khumalo died at the makeshift facility that was used as a “flu clinic” at the hospital.
During his visit to the hospital on Saturday, Mkhize said three months ago he had issued a directive that all hospitals should set up fever clinics where patients could be screened for Covid-19 symptoms so that those showing symptoms would be separated from the rest.
He said he was shocked to learn that patients at Northdale Hospital were being treated in a “shabby, shack tent”.
The minister urged community members to report to the department of health whatever they may see as something that is amiss or sub-standard care at health facilities.
“We’ll explain to you if we think that’s fine, you must accept but you must also realise that in some instances, we miss something and somebody must point it out and we must go in and correct it,” Mkhize said.
He said when he learned about the issue at Northdale Hospital he immediately contacted KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, and instructed her to urgently attend to the matter.
“So by the time it hit the media, we were already on the issue,” Mkhize said.
He commended the MEC for her quick response and said management within the health department across the country needs to be aware that they will be held accountable and that they will “take responsibility for the good and the bad that they do”.
Mkhize said action will be taken against those who do not ensure that health facilities provide the “best quality care that we want for our people”.
The minister said he had been told that the makeshift facility had been a donation but he said that though donations are welcomed, hospital management should have ensured it was of the right standard and quality.
Mkhize said the investigation into the matter must determine how come it was patients who picked up the issue at Northdale Hospital and not management.
Simelane-Zulu announced on Wednesday the suspension of two of the hospital’s officials and the redeployment of its acting CEO, following Khumalo’s death from hypoxia in the makeshift parking lot facility.
Simelane-Zulu said the medical manager and nursing manager at the hospital would be placed on immediate suspension and that the CEO, who had been on sick leave for more than two weeks, would be redeployed “to her original position as a maternal health specialist”.
On Saturday, Simelane-Zulu said an acting CEO from the Ugu District in the province would in a few days report to work at the hospital and that a medical manager and nursing manager have started working following the suspensions.
The MEC said the makeshift facility has been demolished and a more suitable structure, which will be ready for use in the next two days, is being set up.