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Durban - The families of two men turned away by nurses at Addington Hospital because no doctor was on duty are demanding answers after the two died of the injuries they sustained in a horrific car crash in Durban’s city centre.
Marius Hayward, 31, and Nico Nel, 27, clung to life after the crash early last Sunday morning as ambulance paramedics treating them were turned away from Addington.
Told by casualty staff there was no doctor on duty, frantic paramedics had to take the injured men to other hospitals, one of which is more than a 30-minute drive from the scene.
Both men, who had been violently flung from a bakkie, died shortly after they were wheeled through the hospital doors.
Medics maintain that had they not been turned away from Addington, a four-minute drive from where the accident occurred, the men would have survived.
A medic who treated Hayward and asked not to be named said Hayward had needed urgent hospital treatment. “I found him on the road next to what was left of the bakkie. He had severe chest trauma and other injuries.
“We were told by the casualty department at Addington Hospital that there was no doctor on duty, they could not accept the patients and we needed to go somewhere else. The only place we could find to take Hayward was R K Khan in Chatsworth, which is half an hour away,” he said.
“He was hanging on by a thread. His chest injuries needed treatment that can be administered only in a hospital. He died shortly after we arrived in Chatsworth. I am sure that had a doctor attended to him at Addington, his chances of survival would have improved dramatically.”
Rescuecare paramedic Garrith Jamieson said he was one of the first at the scene and had treated Nel. “A bakkie had collided with a truck and the driver and passenger had been thrown from the wreckage.
“I started treating my patient, who was in a critical condition. He had severe head and chest trauma and was fighting for his life.
“When I heard Addington was turning us away, I called King Edward VIII Hospital and, after much pleading, I got them to accept my patient, even though the accident happened outside their area. He died an hour after we arrived at the casualty unit,” he said.
“This incident is just one of many. In the past month they have turned away dozens of patients. We need to draw the line somewhere.”
Nel’s sister, Anel Meyer, speaking from her Pretoria home, was outraged that her dying brother was turned away. “It makes me so angry that I feel physically ill. He might have lived had the hospital not sent them away,” she said.
Nel, a self-employed handyman, had been living in Pennington on the South Coast.
“He was so ambitious and things were starting to go his way with his business, and he was so happy. I will always remember his smile and how, just by being in a room, he would lift everyone around him. He was very caring,” said Meyer.
Hayward’s brother, Colin, said that if he had the means he would sue the state.
“This is the worst thing that could happen, that in my brother’s time of need he was turned away. It is just unacceptable. If I could, I would sue the state, not for me, but for my brother’s two daughters who are now going to grow up without a father,” he said.
He added that Hayward was a devoted father to Milandi and Chade, aged eight years and eight months respectively.
“If he had his way he would spend his days with his children. He loved them dearly. He was a wonderful man. My brother was the kind of person who would tell stories and make us laugh. He would spend hours doing that,” he said.
The head of the Health Department, Dr Sibongile Zungu, said an inquiry had been launched into the incident.
“These allegations are being dealt with at the highest level. A full investigation is under way. It is not common practice to have no doctor on duty at a hospital. There would have been several in the hospital,” she said.
“Even if there was no doctor in the casualty unit, the nurses know they must accept the patients and then go through the on-call doctor list and raise the alarm. Those patients should never have been turned away,” she added.
Addington Hospital, fraught with staff shortages, faces closure as the provincial health department scrambles to renovate the limping health facility.
In January, theatres and wards were shut after airconditioning units stopped working, forcing a mass transfer of several hundred patients to other hospitals.
In July, provincial health portfolio committee members visited the hospital and expressed shock at what they found. The hospital has a chequered history of turning away the sick and injured.
In 2010, Mohamed Khan died in the waiting room at the hospital’s polyclinic. He was turned away at the emergency room by security guards, despite a referral letter from his doctor.
In 2006, nursing staff berated paramedics and turned away seven badly injured accident victims.