Hospital security guard turned away patient battling to breathe

10 January 2021 - 00:00
A security guard at Busamed Hillcrest Private Hospital turned away a patient who was battling to breathe, because the facility was full.
A security guard at Busamed Hillcrest Private Hospital turned away a patient who was battling to breathe, because the facility was full.
Image: Tyler Olson/123RF.com

Michelle Durand was helpless on New Year's Day when a security guard at Busamed Hillcrest Private Hospital turned away her mother, who was battling to breathe, because the facility was full.

"My mom was turning blue in the face. As I live in Botha's Hill and given the emergency situation I was in, it was the closest hospital. When I arrived at the boom gate at the entrance, the security guard refused us access. The more I said it was an emergency and he needs to look at the state of my mother, the more he stood his ground and said no entry into the hospital, it is closed," Durand said.

"I felt really helpless and angry that a security guard who doesn't even have any medical experience or qualifications had the power to play God and decide who could or couldn't get emergency treatment and access to health care."

A few hours earlier, security guards turned away 39-year-old Dineshren Naidoo from Busamed Gateway Private Hospital in Umhlanga. He died a short while later while awaiting treatment at Life Mount Edgecombe Hospital in Phoenix.

Doctors said private hospitals appear to be battling in the second wave of the Covid epidemic, and had to seek beds for their patients in the public sector because of capacity constraints, particularly staffing.

Statistics show that 402 patients were in private hospital ICUs and 59 were in public facilities in KwaZulu-Natal this week.

"There is no doubt the hospitals and primary care services are under significant pressure," said South African Medical Association chair Dr Angelique Coetzee. "It seems beds are under even more pressure than the last wave, but this is always a dynamic situation and fast case escalations can result in a short-term shortages.

"Concerns are less about bed capacity and more around staff capacity - currently private and public facilities are really battling to staff the beds needed to treat the surge in patients. A bed can be opened relatively easily and even supplies purchased, but skilled staff cannot materialise overnight. It is also reported that this wave is seeing many more staff infected or having to quarantine."

Generally, one nurse is assigned to an ICU patient. But in a Covid-19 ward a nurse may be assigned to as many as five patients.

Busamed Hospital Group confirmed it has instructed security guards to turn away patients. "We are cognisant that due to the unprecedented demands of the second surge the availability of beds, intensive care, equipment and treatment modalities have been impacted, and our capacity may not always be able to meet the demand," it said.

Busamed and the Netcare and Life Healthcare groups said the bed situation nationally was dire. While Netcare welcomed a "heartening decrease" in admissions in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, it said the admission rate had shot up in Limpopo and it was preparing for an "alarming rise in admissions" in Gauteng over the next two weeks.


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