At least two inquest dockets were opened at the police station after the death of six Covid-19-positive patients at Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital on January 2.
At least two inquest dockets were opened at the police station after the death of six Covid-19-positive patients at Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital on January 2.

Probe after two Covid-19 patients die at Durban hospital due to malfunctioning oxygen tanks

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Jan 11, 2021

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Durban - At least two inquest dockets were opened at the police station after the death of six Covid-19-positive patients at Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital on January 2.

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that Sydenham police were investigating the deaths of two people, aged 47 and 57, who died in the hospital on Randles Road.

“The post-mortem will determine the cause of death,” said Gwala.

A police source confirmed that both the dead were admitted at Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital and were being treated for Covid-19. However, at 7.30am on January 2, they died.

“The families were later informed that they had passed on due to a malfunction of the oxygen tank,” the source said.

They added that the bodies were removed by private undertakers.

The Daily News learnt about the incident early last week when a source alleged that two families had asked private pathologist Reggie Perumal to conduct the post-mortems because it was alleged that an oxygen tank malfunction was behind the deaths.

The source also said the four remaining families would also go the same route.

Perumal last week confirmed his practice was requested to conduct an autopsy on one of the dead, not both.

He said they did not conduct the autopsy, but the state did. They just attended the autopsy.

“It would be irregular for us to do that. It’s the state that’s supposed to do the investigation,” said Perumal.

A source at the Phoenix Medico-Legal Mortuary confirmed that two post-mortems had indeed been conducted.

The Daily News made contact with one of the families that had an inquest docket opened but they were not ready to speak on their loss; they were still heartbroken and in mourning and declined to comment.

Last week, the Lenmed Group said it would be investigating the interruption of the oxygen supply at Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital, an incident which occurred in the early hours of January 2.

The group notified all relevant authorities and is co-operating fully in this respect.

Lenmed has also been in contact with the supplier of the oxygen equipment and infrastructure to determine the exact cause of the interruption.

In a statement the group said 77 patients were admitted in the hospital. The hospital staff responded immediately and attended to all patients who were receiving supplemental oxygen and ventilation and who were affected by the disruption. Treating physicians were notified by the hospital and arrived to render assistance. All patients who needed resuscitation received attention but six died.

Lenmed Group chief executive Amil Devchand said: “We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones. We have made all our resources available to support them during this painful period. I would like to assure all patients and their families that measures have been instituted in the interim, to prevent a recurrence of such an incident.”

The Daily News

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