KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has announced that two hospital officials will be suspended with immediate effect and the acting CEO at Northdale Hospital will be redeployed, following a patient’s death from hypoxia in a makeshift parking lot facility at the hospital.
The patient was taken to the hospital on Friday, 31 July, after he complained of shortness of breath. He was taken to a makeshift facility that is located in the parking lot of the hospital.
The provincial department of health said a team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) was roped in to urgently investigate the circumstances around the patient’s death.
Simelane-Zulu said the medical manager and nursing manager at the hospital would be placed on immediate suspension and that the CEO, who has been on sick leave for more than two weeks, would be redeployed “to her original position as a maternal health specialist”.
The department said in a statement that the precautionary suspensions were to allow for an investigation into the demise of a 67-year-old man in a hospital ward in the early hours of Saturday morning after he had reportedly received medical treatment in a partially covered flu clinic on the hospital’s parking lot.
The department further said that following the incident, the MEC has issued an instruction to the head of department Dr Sandile Tshabalala to institute an independent investigative team to probe the incident.
The MEC has also given a directive for the urgent installation of a temporary structure at the hospital, with adequate heating – which has been erected as of today – while the department’s Infrastructure Development Unit fast-tracks the establishment of a more solid structure, the department said.
The investigative team from UKZN has already begun its work and is expected to produce a report by Friday and make recommendations, the statement reads.
Furthermore, the department has embarked on an audit to determine the suitability of its flu clinics at other hospitals.
MEC Simelane-Zulu, who convened an urgent meeting about the matter on Tuesday, said urgent and decisive action is needed in such cases in order to send a strong message to managers who apparently abdicate their duties.
Speaking at Northdale Hospital on Tuesday evening, MEC Simelane-Zulu said: “Firstly, we send our condolences to the family. We are saddened by the circumstances under which their loved one passed away.
“In the province of KZN, we have 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’s space to put in patients for triaging.
“Many of our hospitals have done that. The problem that we’re having here 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.
“In a setting such as this, it is not only patients who are compromised, but staff as well, because they work through the night.
“It is unacceptable for managers to look for excuses as to why certain things cannot be done. And when you ask them why if they had challenges, these were not brought to the attention of the department, they are unable to answer.
“We are supposed to be hospitable to our patients. I do not understand why people are called managers when they do not manage?”
The department will announce findings of the investigation in due course.
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)