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Two senior health officials suspended over death of 67-year-old man

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has announced the immediate suspension of the medical manager and nursing manager at Northdale Hospital, as well as the redeployment of the acting CEO to her original position as a maternal health specialist.

This follows the death of Sibusiso Edward Khumalo, 67, while in the care of the hospital.

Khumalo’s daughter, radio personality Hlengiwe Khumalo, took to social media to vent her anger about her father’s death after he had complained about feeling cold in the makeshift structure at the hospital.

It is alleged that Khumalo had been placed on a makeshift structure at the hospital upon admission on Friday after he had complained of difficulty in breathing.

Following the incident, the MEC issued an instruction to the Head of Department, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, to institute an independent investigation team to probe the incident.

Simelane-Zulu has also given a directive for the urgent installation of a temporary structure at the hospital with adequate heating, which has since been erected today, while the department’s Infrastructure Development Unit is fast-tracking the establishment of a more solid structure.

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.

Simelane-Zulu, who convened an urgent meeting about the matter on Tuesday, said urgent and decisive action is needed in such cases in order to send a strong message to managers, who apparently abdicate their duties.

“Firstly, we send our condolences to the family. We are saddened by the circumstances under which their loved one passed away.

“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 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.

“Many of our hospitals have done that. 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. It is unacceptable for managers to look for excuses as to why certain things cannot be done.

“When you ask them why they did not bring these challenges to the attention of the department, they are unable to answer. We are supposed to be hospitable to our patients. I do not understand why people are called managers when they do not manage,” the MEC said.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has conveyed condolences on behalf of the provincial government to the Khumalo family.

The department will announce findings of the investigation in due course.

SAnews.gov.za

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