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Durban - Health workers spoke of their terror at seeing a gunman - believed to be a fired employee - shooting dead a human resources officer at Durban’s King Edward VIII Hospital, before calmly walking away.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said Sipho Mfayela, 54, was shot at the hospital in Umbilo on Thursday and that police were investigating a case of murder. No arrests have been made.
Patients and hospital staff who spoke to the Daily News said a man who had been fired recently returned to collect his letter of dismissal.
A patient’s mother was on her way to the hospital’s human resources department to collect a document for her daughter when she heard a gunshot. She was told an employee had been shot and that the culprit had escaped.
A nurse from St Aidan’s Hospital said she and several other nurses were at King Edward for an orientation programme when the shooting took place.
“Some of the nurses saw a man walk up to the second floor with a gun in his hand,” she said. “The next thing we heard was a loud noise which sounded like a car crash. We saw people running away, screaming, ‘Sipho was shot, Sipho was shot’. It was terrifying.”
A hospital employee said the man was seen calmly walking out the building after the incident. Police are searching for the man.
“There are so many exits at the hospital; he went by unnoticed,” he said. “He shot the HR official in the presence of other people.
This man came specifically for the officer.”
A doctor said the wounded man was taken to casualty where he later died. “This is a real tragedy.”
Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo visited the hospital after the shooting.
He sympathised with Mfayela’s family and promised an internal investigation.
He described the gunman as an employee who had a hospital identification card, and could “come and go as he pleases”. The MEC could not confirm whether the gunman had been fired.
Shooting incidents at public hospitals were not new, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) and the SA Medical Association (Sama) said yesterday.
In October 2007, four hospital staff were killed in a shooting in Limpopo.
In June 2008, a patient was killed and his attending doctor was injured after three men fired shots in the trauma unit at Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital.
Sama’s KZN branch chairman, Dr Jacob Mpatsoe, said a KZN doctor Senzosenkosi Mkhize, 32, was stabbed to death by a patient at Middelburg Hospital in Mpumalanga in June, 2011.
“At the time, health unions made a list of demands for the department and we were told a government task team would be established to conduct a study. This report would be sent to the Health MEC for security measures to be put in in place at KZN hospitals,” said Mpatsoe. “Two years later, nothing has happened.”
Denosa KZN vice-chairman, S’bonelo Cele, said:
“We are worried about the safety of staff. This shooting was not far from the wards,” said Cele. “We were made to believe security would be improved, especially in the last two years. Security companies are supposed to be briefed by one person, but they are all doing their own thing. It’s so easy to walk into hospitals.”
In another hospital shooting in May last year, police shot dead a hostage-taker at Westville Hospital after he entered with a gun.