'Shabby and shocking': Mkhize's verdict on hospital where pensioner died in car park

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, health minister Zweli Mkhize and acting district manager Mark Green in the parking lot that was used as a makeshift ward at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg on August 8 2020.
KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, health minister Zweli Mkhize and acting district manager Mark Green in the parking lot that was used as a makeshift ward at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg on August 8 2020.
Image: Nivashni Nair

A 67-year-old man admitted to a Pietermaritzburg hospital's flu clinic died in a donated “shabby shack or tent” in the car park.

During a visit to Northdale Hospital on Saturday, health minister Zweli Mkhize said he was shocked to discover how its patients who should have been in fever clinics were accommodated during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“About three months ago I gave a directive for all hospitals to create fever clinics wherein people must be triaged,” said Mkhize.

“We must separate people as they walk in, make sure that if you've got symptoms of Covid-19, we can then test you and separate you from those that have no symptoms. It must be done properly. That was the directive.

“Then comes Northdale with some shabby shack or tent out there and we hear people were being treated in them and it's shocking.”

Mkhize revealed that the makeshift ward was a gift to the hospital. “I have no problem with a donation but as management you need to know what is the quality that is expected to treat our people,” he told Northdale bosses.

The medical and nursing managers were suspended after radio personality Hlengiwe Khumalo shared a video on Monday of a parking lot that had been converted into a ward where her father, Sibusiso Khumalo, died from hypoxia (lack of oxygen) on Saturday.

Khumalo said her father had been taken to the hospital on July 31 complaining about a tight chest. She said he told the nurses he was cold, but they said there was nothing they could do.

Mkhize said hospital managers countrywide needed to know they would be held accountable.

“They are going to have to take responsibility for the good and bad that they are doing. We are going to be taking action against anyone that is not using their position to provide best-quality care for our people,” he said.

While the health department had issued a directive for the creation of fever clinics, there was no standard on the structure.

“As management you should know quality of care. If you have a problem you come to us for support. We don’t have a standard. We have a system. This is what must happen in a system. We must be flexible. And we must do it properly,” he said.

A team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been tasked with investigating the matter and was expected to produce a report with recommendations by Friday. KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the report would be made public on Monday.

Northdale Hospital's new temporary triage centre on August 8 2020.
Northdale Hospital's new temporary triage centre on August 8 2020.
Image: Nivashni Nair

“The structure was very cold, very ill-advised. When we had an engagement with the management, we realised that the challenge was purely on management,” she said.

“We decided to remove those that were managing at the time. We have put in a temporary management team that is going to stabilise the facility at least for the next four weeks. The majority of them come from outside the district.”

Simelane-Zulu walked Mkhize through the hospital's new plans, which include a new tent with heating while a more solid structure is prepared.

“We have demolished that old structure. This that we have here is literally a temporary structure. We don’t want our patients to get cold and when patients come in here, they are going to be closed in,” said Simelane-Zulu.

TimesLIVE


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