Northdale Hospital managers suspended after patient dies in parking lot 'medical cubicle'
Durban - The Northdale Hospital medical and nursing managers have been suspended while the hospital’s acting chief executive has been deployed to her previous post of maternal health specialist, after a patient died while being treated in a makeshift shelter in the hospital’s parking lot on Saturday morning.
In a statement issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health on Wednesday, MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the precautionary suspensions will allow for the department to investigate the circumstances around Sibusiso Edward Khumalo’s death.
The Mercury reported that the 67-year-old man died shortly after his children were forced to bring him a blanket from home after a nurse allegedly refused to help.
His daughter, radio personality Hlengiwe Khumalo, said her father complained he was feeling cold, but “the nurse said there was nothing she could do about it”.
She said her father had been struggling to breathe and was taken to hospital on Friday night for treatment. When the family arrived at the hospital, Khumalo was put in a wheelchair and taken to the parking lot.
She said he was then 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 her siblings returned home to get a blanket and went back to the hospital.
Around 11pm, they were told to leave and at 2am, police came to the house to inform them that their father had passed away.
Simelane-Zulu said she instructed the Head of Department, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, to institute an independent investigative team to probe the incident.
“I have also given a directive for the urgent installation of a temporary structure at the hospital, with adequate heating – which has been erected as of Wednesday – while the department’s Infrastructure Development Unit fast-tracks the establishment of a more solid structure,” she said.
The MEC added that the investigative team, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has already begun its work, and is expected to produce a report by Friday and make recommendations.
“Furthermore, the department has embarked on an audit to determine the suitability of its flu clinics at other hospitals,” she said.
On Tuesday, the MEC convened an urgent meeting, adding that decisive action needed to be taken in such cases to send a strong message to managers who apparently abdicate their duties.
Speaking at Northdale Hospital on Tuesday evening, MEC Simelane-Zulu sent her condolences to the family.
"In the province of KZN, we have more than 70 hospitals. All of them were given a directive to establish flu clinics to help screen patients for Covid-19.
“They were even informed that if they could not identify the relevant section within the hospital, because some of our hospitals have spatial challenges, they could take money from their budgets and set up a temporary structure in order to ensure that there’s space to put in patients for triaging,” she said.
Simelane-Zulu added many hospitals have followed the department’s instruction.
“The problem that we’re having here at Northdale is that you have people who are employed to do a job, but they do not. They wait for others higher up to do their work.
“You get to the facility and find that management does not see anything wrong with having a tent with open spaces at the top, which lets in air.
“In a setting such as this, it is not only patients who are compromised, but staff as well, because they work through the night,” she said.
The MEC said it was unacceptable for managers to look for excuses as to why certain things cannot be done, and when questioned as to why the challenges were not brought to the department’s attention, they were unable to provide answers.
“We are supposed to be hospitable to our patients. I do not understand why people are called managers when they do not manage?”
The department will announce the findings of the investigation in due course.