KZN family calls for investigation after father dies in ’makeshift hospital ward’

By Kailene Pillay Time of article published Aug 5, 2020

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Durban - The family of a Pietermaritzburg man who died while being treated in a makeshift shelter at Northdale Hospital's parking lot, is calling for a full investigation into the “inhumane” conditions at the facility.

Sibusiso Edward Khumalo, 67, died in the early hours of Saturday morning, shortly after his children were forced to bring him a blanket from home after a nurse allegedly refused to help.

According to his daughter, radio personality Hlengiwe Khumalo, her father complained that he was feeling cold, but “the nurse said there was nothing she could do about it”.

Khumalo said her father had been struggling to breathe for most of last week, and by Friday night he wanted to go to the hospital for treatment.

“My siblings took my father to Northdale Hospital at around 7pm. When he arrived there, he was put in a wheelchair and taken to the parking lot.

"There, he was taken to a ‘cubicle’ partitioned with tent-like material, and a nurse came to do tests on him while other patients slept in their own cubicles,” Khumalo said.

She added that while the nurse conducted tests, including a Covid-19 test, her father said he was cold, but the nurse said there was nothing she could do to assist him.

“It was then that my siblings went home to get a blanket for him. When they returned, they wrapped him in the blanket, and the nurses told them to leave. That was around 11pm.

“A few hours later, at around 2am, the police arrived at our home to tell us that my father had died,” Khumalo said. She added that the family were shocked as her father had always been an active man who exercised and maintained a healthy lifestyle.

Khumalo said while they had not received her father's Covid-19 test results, his death notice from the hospital showed that he died from hypoxia, which is lack of oxygen to the body's tissues.

When she arrived on Sunday to identify her father's body, her siblings showed her where her father was treated the night before.

“I was horrified, and my heart broke to know that my father took his last breath in that makeshift structure outside the hospital in the cold,” she said.

Khumalo recorded a video showing how patients were kept under a structure and separated by pieces of tent material in the parking lot.

The video also shows hospital beds, equipment and plastic chairs in the improvised patient cubicles. She sent the video via Twitter to the provincial Department of Health and Minister Zweli Mkhize.

“I am angry and heartbroken. We want to know why is this happening? Why are they putting our parents in tents?” she asked.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala conveyed condolences on behalf of the provincial government to the Khumalo family, while the provincial Department of Health launched an investigation into the matter.

Provincial government spokesperson Lennox Mabaso said the Health Department had since been in contact with the family.

“Premier Zikalala has asked the provincial Department of Health to compile a report on the circumstances that led to Khumalo’s death. We want this matter to be investigated thoroughly and if negligence is found on the part of the hospital, those responsible must be held accountable,” said Mabaso.

The Mercury

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