An investigation has been launched into Northdale hospital’s parking lot ward

Ntombenhle Mkhize, 54, was diagnosed with bronchopneumonia the day before she died in the icy cold “makeshift” Covid-19 facility at Northdale hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

Mkhize’s son, who asked that his name be withheld, said they took his mother to hospital at 2pm and were informed the next morning of her death.

“She (Mkhize) phoned us around 11pm and said she was still waiting and feeling cold. At 3am she called again and begged that we bring her a blanket. We managed to get a car at 4am and took the blanket to her … It may have been time for my mother to go, but the cold in that tent finished her. You cannot keep a sick person in such conditions,” said Mkhize’s son.

The Northdale facility, where suspected Covid-19 patients are held, has made headlines this week for its “substandard conditions” and raised questions about the province’s ability to safely test and treat people.

The facility is a wide, mostly yellow, red and green tent in a parking lot inside the hospital grounds. It has chairs, beds and oxygen cylinders. Patients have no easy access to toilets or water while they are waiting to be helped.

Hlengiwe Khumalo’s father, Sibusiso Khumalo, 67, also died from hypoxia while waiting in the tent last Friday after he complained of chest pains.

“Around 7pm my brother and sister took him to hospital. My brother put him in a wheelchair since he was unable to walk. The security guards told them to go inside the tent. My father had to wait with other patients who were already there. There is nothing warm in there. It’s only the beds,” said Hlengiwe.