I watched my husband die as hospital turned us away

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

A Johannesburg Metro police officer's gallant effort to save a man's life came to nothing when a private hospital turned them away.

The man died while the officer and family raced to the next hospital.

"I can tell you that the future is bleak," Metro's Doctor Nxumalo said yesterday. "I begged them to at least give him an oxygen mask so that he could get to another hospital, but they refused.

"It hurt me deeply. He could have been saved."

The hospital refused to help because the man had not been transferred by a medical aid fund or a hospital.

Nxumalo was on his way to buy breakfast when he saw a car standing in the middle of the road.

The driver of the car, Lindi Tefu, was trying to get her sister Zodwa and her husband, Johannes Manqele, 52, to another hospital after they were turned away at Selby Park Hospital.

"I watched him die. We were trying to race to a clinic in Hillbrow," his wife Zodwa said.

She said: "We were on our way to work when my husband started complaining about a pain in his chest. When we got to the Faraday taxi rank he was already weak and deteriorating fast.

"We called my sister and she took us to Selby Park Hospital, where they turned us away."

Nxumalo said: "It was after she had followed me through a red robot to draw my attention that I stopped. She told me what had happened.

"I could see that the man was struggling to breathe and I suggested that we go back to the hospital and ask for an oxygen mask to keep him alive until they got to the next hospital.

"When we got to Selby Park we did not even get past the gate. The security guards and nurses told us that we would not get help there because they do not admit casualty cases."

Nxumalo and Tefu raced to the Hillbrow Clinic but Manqele died on arrival.

"Nurses are my colleagues and we have to work together," Nxumalo said. "They took an oath that saving lives is paramount.

"I think what they did was unprofessional. No law is above human life."

Selby Hospital manager Helena Baard said: "We do not take outpatients. We can only advise them to go to the nearest hospital. Patients should be referred to us from Helen Joseph, Johannesburg General and Chris Hani-Baragwanath hospitals or by their medical aid."

When Sowetan asked Baard to comment on the man's death, she said: "We are not licenced to admit outpatients."

Lucas Malambe of the Hospital Association of South Africa said: "In terms of the law, private hospitals are not supposed to turn people away.

"In times of emergency we assist patients and when they are better we transfer them to other hospitals."

Hasa caters for the interests of the majority of private hospital groups and independently owned private hospitals in the country. He said the hospital was not a member of their organisation.

The hospital's action has drawn anger from medical practitioners and the Human Rights Commission (HRC).

HRC chairman Jody Kollapen said: "Private hospitals have the right to refuse treatment but the Constitution says no one should be denied emergency treatment.

"The hospital has an obligation to help people in need of life-saving medical assistance."