Negotiations were underway with a man who has taken two women hostage at the Westville Hospital in Durban on Friday, KwaZulu-Natal police said.

“Hostage negotiators are presently at the scene trying to diffuse the situation and secure the safe release of the hostages,” said Colonel Jay Naicker.

“At approximately 7:40am, the suspect demanded to see a doctor or nurse and became impatient and began firing shots randomly.”

Hospital staff, patients, and visitors panicked and ran in different directions for cover.

Three people sustained minor injuries, apparently from bullet shrapnel flying off the concrete walls and floor, said Naicker.

Two women, employed in the hospital's kitchen, were taken hostage by the man and were being held on the first floor.

The National Intervention Unit and the Special Task Force were presently on scene as backup should negotiations fail, he said.

The 30-year-old man had allegedly hijacked a taxi in Mariannhill earlier and forced the driver to take him to the hospital.

Hospital spokeswoman Leanne Nyiri said it would release a statement shortly.

A Sapa reporter on scene said police snipers had positioned themselves at points surrounding the kitchen.

Portions of the hospital had been evacuated and food was brought in for the remaining patients.

The hostage taker was believed to be a former patient.

A witness, who is a patient at the hospital, told Sapa he was lying in bed when the commotion began.

Mark House said he heard three gunshots and moments later, a woman stormed into his ward and tried to hide behind him.

“She was apologising to me, because she chose my room, because she feared this guy was looking for her,” he said.

A short while later police evacuated them. - Sapa