Durban - The RK Khan Hospital board has hit back at what it described as a “surprise, overnight decision” by the provincial health department to redeploy the institution’s chief executive.
The department said yesterday that the decision to move RK Khan chief executive Dr Prakash Subban was not only because of an incident in which maggots were found in a patient’s mouth, but also because he had allegedly ignored the department’s directives.
Subban is being moved to St Aidan’s Hospital while Nqobile Mkhwanazi, chief executive of Queen Nandi Memorial Hospital at Empangeni, will move to RK Khan Hospital.
The department said Mkhwanazi would lead a multidisciplinary team that would determine the challenges facing the hospital and develop a turnaround plan within six months.
Yesterday the hospital’s board said the decision would not solve the issues the hospital faced which included lack of staff and funding.
The RK Khan hospital board chairperson, Reverend Cyril Pillay, has since called on the department to rescind its decision on Subban. Pillay said RK Khan Hospital was losing a “stalwart” medical superintendent and “thousands of local and regional patients and staff will testify to the smooth running of the hospital under Dr Subban”.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu yesterday said a number of interventions the department had tried to implement were ignored by management.
“This follows a protracted investigation and directives which were in the past given to hospital management to remedy the challenges but were not acted upon. So we took a decision that Dr Subban be moved so we can bring in a new CEO with fresh eyes who will be able to actually turn around the institution,” Simelane-Zulu said.
Last week the hospital made headlines when a video of a patient, Sadek Ebrahim, with maggots in his mouth, went viral. Ebrahim, who had gangrene, died last week of natural causes.
Speaking off the record, a hospital official said Ebrahim was in a “very poor state” when he arrived at the hospital and nurses and doctors “tried their very best with him”.
“He also was not in hospital for two weeks as the patient’s family claimed,” the official said.
Ebrahim’s family could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Simelane-Zulu said that Mkhwanazi would remain at RK Khan hospital until it was back on a sound footing and then return to Queen Nandi hospital.
The hospital’s board defended Subban, saying that he had been instrumental in maintaining RK Khan as “a leading teaching, training and referral hospital” in Chatsworth for more than 30 years.
“Dr Subban led the hospital through the apartheid era and a countless number of patients, nurses, doctors and auxiliary staff will hail his strong leadership skills through difficult and challenging years,” Pillay said.
He added that as with all state hospitals, if the correct budget and staff compliment were allocated, “there would have been no negative vibes”.
“Dr Subban is the son of the soil at RK Khan Hospital and we ask the MEC of Health to rescind the premature redeployment decision,” Pillay said.
When contacted for comment, Subban said he was unable to comment on the situation or his removal as he was still employed by the department.
After the video of the patient went viral, community activist Visvin Reddy formed the RK Khan action committee, which is demanding that the department provide details of the interventions that were allegedly ignored by hospital management.
Reddy said the committee also wanted the hospital board to be dissolved. “We want the MEC to give us an undertaking that most, if not all, vacant posts will be filled at the hospital. All the department is doing right now is changing the driver of a broken bus. The bus needs to be fixed,” Reddy said.
Speaking on the turnaround strategy for RK Khan Hospital, Simelane-Zulu said the new project team headed by Mkhwanazi had been organised into five work streams including:
General hospital administration.
Supply chain management.
Patient flows and work process in outpatient departments.
Quality assurance, infection prevention and control.
“Despite financial constraints, the department remains committed to improving the quality of care at RKKhan Hospital as well as all other health facilities across the province,” Simelane- Zulu said.