Health minister steps in as monkeys invade kitchen, wards at KZN hospital

06 February 2019 - 17:27
A monkey tries to enter a ward at Durban's RK Khan Hospital.
Image: Thuli Dlamini A monkey tries to enter a ward at Durban's RK Khan Hospital.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi has appointed a task team to urgently tackle an invasion of monkeys at Durban's RK Khan Hospital.

Motsoaledi flew to Durban on Wednesday to conduct a site visit at the state facility, which has long been grappling with the primates invading the hospital's kitchen and, more recently, the wards.

He said he was extremely concerned and decided to take immediate action after watching a video on social media that shows monkeys roaming freely through a ward full of patients.

"The images I saw were disturbing. I just learnt this morning that the hospital was advised by some people who claim to know about monkeys not to interact with them or disturb them because they get aggressive," said Motsoaledi.

"I don't accept that type of advice - that monkeys can be just left among human beings, especially sick human beings, out of fear that they will get aggressive."

Motsoaledi said nursing staff said the monkeys appeared throughout the day and sometimes interfered with patients' intravenous (IV) drips. He said he was concerned about the potential diseases that monkeys could carry, including TB, yellow fever and hepatitis.

The minister said the task team was made up of a Durban state vet as well as health, biodiversity and environmental experts.

"We are not experts ... so I brought all these experts together to find immediate solutions.

"We know food has brought the monkeys into the hospital. The team will meet immediately this afternoon to find a solution. We want the NSPCA to be part of the team as well."

KZN health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said: "We should accept the shortcomings of the department. That the minister is announcing a team which is bigger than just health  representatives should have been our thinking earlier.

"The plans that were put in place were very short-term, including cordoning off the kitchen and making the place where the food is being kept inaccessible to monkeys, [and] has not been a complete solution. The monkeys have found other ways to go into the hospital.

"We must admit we missed out in broadening the team. We think, in retrospect, that we should have not been thinking too much about people who have other interests."

During the site visit, a few monkeys were spotted dashing in and out of a ward. Their paw prints were clearly visible on the windows.