Coronavirus News Africa

Father dies of hypoxia in makeshift Covid-19 parking lot facility at KwaZulu-Natal hospital

The makeshift parking lot facility to treat suspected Covid-19 patients in Pietermaritzburg.

Hlengiwe Khumalo, Twitter

  • A Pietermartizburg father died while housed in a makeshift Covid-19 facility in the Northdale Hospital parking lot.
  • He complained that he felt cold but, according to his daughter, a nurse said there was nothing she could do about it.
  • Family members had to head home and return with their own blanket. But he died a few hours later.

The daughter of a Pietermaritzburg man who died of hypoxia while housed in a parking lot facility for suspected Covid-19 patients, said her father died in inhumane conditions.

Hlengiwe Khumalo spoke to News24 on Tuesday morning after a video she posted of the makeshift facility went viral.

The video shows poorly partitioned facilities, beds and hospital equipment in the parking lot of a local hospital.

Khumalo said that for most of last week, her father, Sibusiso Edward Khumalo, 67, had difficulty breathing

“He was struggling, but it was on and off. On Friday evening, he then asked us to take him to hospital because I guess he felt it was getting worse.”

She said her siblings took him to Northdale Hospital on Friday, 31 July at around 19:00.

“Upon arrival, he was put [in] a wheelchair because he could no longer walk on his own and was taken to these structures in the parking lot.”

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When he got there, there were other patients who were asleep.

“There were partitions and beds. A nurse eventually came and conducted a series of tests, including the coronavirus test. At some point during this, my dad says he is cold. She tells him that there is nothing she can do about that. She can’t help him being cold.”

Sibusiso Eward Khumalo, 67, died while housed in a

Sibusiso Eward Khumalo, 67, died while housed in a parking lot facility at Northdale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg.

She said her sister went back home to fetch a blanket.

“They stayed with him until 23:00 and then left him in one of those beds in that structure. They told us he passed away around 02:00.”


Khumalo said she arrived in Pietermaritzburg on Sunday and went to the hospital on Monday to identify his body.

She said: 

That’s when I took the video because I was in shock that this is where my father died.

She described the situation as “heartbreaking”.

“When I heard about his passing, I was shocked. He was a strong guy and would do morning exercises and was active. He was doing things for himself. He was not an old guy. So for us to hear that he was struggling with his breathing for a week and then went to hospital and died, it’s shocking.”

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Khumalo said she had spoken to officials from the health department, including the provincial head of the department.

“He said he wasn’t aware this was happening. I asked him how he was not aware. He’s supposed to know. That is what you get paid to do. To know what is happening in hospitals especially during this time. I need accountability. They need to come to the party and call my mother and apologise. Something needs to happen.”

The structure must be removed

She added that the makeshift structure at the hospital should be removed immediately.

“The first thing they need to do is dismantle those structures. They need to make another plan. They can’t be putting people in those things. That’s basically a morgue. It is inhumane to leave people out there in the cold.”

The daughter added that the cause of her father’s death was noted as hypoxia, but added that “on his notice of death, they just have Covid-19 as a question mark because we don’t have the results yet”.

Khumalo described her father as a kind and sweet man.

“He was a good listener. He loved going to church. He loved to laugh and was a very laid back kind of guy. He was enjoying playing with his grandkids and was kind and caring and just wanted to see everyone happy.”

Head of the health department, Dr Sandile Tshabalala, conveyed his condolences to the family and said they would investigate the matter.

“The video was sent to me last night and we are investigating what happened. I therefore will not be having any details now. We are going to investigate and as soon as we know, we will be able to communicate properly what exactly is reported to us as the Department of Health.”

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