The health department in KwaZulu-Natal says they are investigating a video that went viral depicting patients in distress at the Wentworth Hospital in Durban.
Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu on Monday condemned the recording of patients at the facility.
“First and foremost, we wish to emphasise that we strongly condemn the filming and distribution of video footage of any patients within the care of the department, without official authorisation, and the patients’ express permission.
“This is indecent, and tantamount to the violation of patients’ inalienable right to privacy and dignity.”
She said they were however investigating the circumstances the patients found themselves in.
“Naturally, we are concerned by circumstances that led to this situation, and are investigating this matter.”
Simelane-Zulu said the department dispatched a high-level delegation of managers from its head office to, “… establish the facts, and come up with an immediate resolution of the situation”.
She said the patients filmed were awaiting their Covid-19 results, also known as Patients Under Investigation (PUIs). On the day in question, the hospital had received a particularly high number of patients, she said.
“Additionally, 11 doctors were away in isolation, after testing positive. A further 17 nursing staff were off, due to Covid-19. Six nurses were in charge of the Accidents and Emergency Unit, as well as a 28-bed short stay ward with very sick patients.”
Simelane-Zulu said the delegation from the department has since assisted the hospital to ensure that patient flow is managed properly.
“[They are] making alterations at Wentworth Hospital’s Accidents and Emergency Unit, which has created space for more beds, which will help alleviate congestion.
“They are sending recovering patients to Clairwood Hospital, which has ample space, while those who need oxygen are sent to isolation.
“Furthermore, we firmly believe the availability of Covid-19 rapid tests will progressively reduce the time spent by patients who are awaiting their results.
“We have a serious and deadly pandemic on our hands, which is now of our own making.”
She further thanked frontline healthcare workers for the, “… good work that is being done”.
Speaking on the incident, DA Member of Parliamentary Legislature Dr Rishigen Viranna said: “The current situation within our province’s healthcare institutions is first and foremost the result of years of mismanagement, further exacerbated by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“What we are now seeing is an historical shortage of vital clinical staff through frozen posts combined with healthcare workers who are becoming infected, being placed in quarantine and, sadly, some passing away.
“This immense strain is now having a huge impact on patient care in facilities, as seen in this video.”