The Health MEC, Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has instructed the head of department that an independent team of experts from the University of KwaZulu-Natal probe the death of 67-year-old Sibusiso Khumalo at the Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

Khumalo died in a makeshift structure outside the hospital. The information came to light when deceased’s daughter, Hlengiwe, posted a video on her Facebook page showing the makeshift structure of a flu clinic that her father was being treated in when they brought him to the hospital on Friday night with breathing problems. The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department says Khumalo passed away in a ward the next day.

Khumalo had been complaining of chest pains and had trouble breathing since last week. He was admitted to the Northdale Hospital on Friday and taken in a wheelchair to the makeshift structure outside the hospital.

Hlengiwe says it was there that he was tested for the coronavirus. She says the family is yet to receive clarity on his results.

The family is demanding answers on why Khumalo was admitted to a cold, makeshift structure in the hospital parking lot.

In the video below, the Khumalos are demanding answers:

No heating

The Health Department says in a statement, the flu clinic in which Khumalo was initially treated, is a partially covered structure that had no heating. State hospitals in the province had been instructed to erect flu clinics to screen for COVID-19 cases. Simelane-Zulu says she has ordered that a proper facility be erected at Northdale on Wednesday and that an audit be done on the suitability of all the other flu clinics at other hospitals.

Simelane-Zulu was scathing in her criticism of the situation at Northdale after visiting the hospital on Tuesday night. She said management was empowered to use money from their budget to erect a proper temporary structure if they did not have space inside the hospital. She has said that management, however, saw nothing wrong in having a tent with open spaces at the top as a flu clinic.

Two officials suspended

Two senior officials have since been suspended. The Medical Manager and the Nursing Manager at the Northdale Hospital have been suspended. The acting hospital CEO – who has been on sick leave – has also been transferred to her original position as maternal health specialist. The precautionary suspension is to allow for further investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of Khumalo.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said a thorough investigation will be conducted and those responsible will be called to account.

Mkhize is on a two-day visit to the province ahead of an expected prfovincial peak in infections.

In the video below, the Health Minister demands an investigation:

The investigating team is expected to deliver its findings and recommendations to the department on Friday.