Two Johannesburg families are demanding answers from Gauteng Health as one family claims their mother died after contracting COVID-19 at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. She was admitted for an unrelated health problem early in June.

The other family alleges negligence at the Tembisa Hospital.

Shelly’s mother was admitted for mental confusion at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in early June. She says she wanted the hospital to help her mother with that.

After a brain scan, she tried to enquire about her mother’s condition.

“I kept on calling asking for a doctor. Three weeks passed, I hadn’t received any call from a doctor,” says Shelly.

Suspicious and worried sick, Shelly went to the hospital early this week. She waited for over four hours while a staffer tried to locate her mother.

“She came back with a book and told me, ‘I’m sorry, your mother died on Saturday at 12pm.’ I celebrated my birthday on Sunday without knowing that my mom was no more.”

But what pains her more is the presumed cause of death. “She told me that if she were to conclude, she’d say that my mother died of COVID-19 because she was only confused.”

The family was told to go to the hospital with an undertaker. To their shock, the cause of death changed.

“Now, they have changed their statement. They are saying that my mother has died of high blood pressure. She did have high blood. It was under control and I still don’t believe it’s high blood. I went there myself on Monday. They told me it’s COVID-19.”

Gauteng Health MEC Dr Bandile Masuku says that, at the moment, there are uncertainties.

“There would be some uncertainties to understand at the moment or actually explain. But it might be helpful to deal with the matter as per case. But COVID-19 as a disease entity has a lot of manifestations that some of them we discover as we go.”

In the video below, families demand answers from Gauteng Health following hospital deaths. 

Another family wants answers. Nomalanga Mnguni’s father was admitted to Tembisa Hospital last Saturday. She says he had complained of breathing difficulties.

The family says they were told his condition was improving, but on Tuesday, they called in vain and could not get an update on their father’s health and COVID-19 test result.

“And then at 9:22 I get a call; ‘Is it possible that you can rush to the hospital?’ when I got there, the doors were open. I got inside because there was no one there, I saw patients who were not dressed, they were crying, no blankets,” says Mnguni.

She says a nurse broke the news to them. “We were not even allowed to see the actual results. One came and told me that my dad passed on at 9pm.”

The family is still unsure if he succumbed to the virus.

Dr Masuku says the MEC’s office has sent a team to Tembisa Hospital to investigate.

“We have sent our team from the MEC’s office and we also learnt that health ombudsman has been to Tembisa to investigate in that regard. The most important aspect that we have to deal with is also how we communicate with the families.”

Investigations are under way and the aggrieved families hope for justice and closure.