KZN hospital refuses to help drowned man

2014-06-10 10:49
(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Durban - A full-scale investigation has been launched to establish why a spear-fisherman, who was clinging to life after drowning, was refused care at Durban’s King Edward VIII Hospital late on Sunday night.

Paramedics managed to resuscitate a lifeless Ronald Reece, who had been pulled from the surf off Brighton Beach by lifeguards, The Witness reported on Tuesday.

Frustrated paramedics, who rushed the swimmer to hospital with a police escort, then argued with doctors and nurses for nearly an hour at the hospital who were intent on turning them away while the paramedics were desperately trying to keep Reece alive.

Nurses are alleged to have stopped the emergency personnel from using a hospital oxygen cylinder after theirs had run out.

Hospital staff eventually gave in and took charge of Reece, who died hours later.

Health department probe

In the wake of his death, medics insist that the outcome could have been different if dismissive doctors and nurses had acted sooner.

Health department officials said that an investigation into Reece’s death had already been started but provided little detail on its progress.

Opposition parties have condemned the incident, calling for Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo to probe it.

In a statement issued by private ambulance service RescueCare, operations director Garrith Jamieson said that Reece had been in a critical condition.

“The man was still unconscious but was maintaining his pulse and had a good blood pressure. Before we left the scene I confirmed that King Edward Hospital was happy to take the patient,” he said.

Medics pushed from pillar to post

Jamieson explained that the decision was taken to bypass Wentworth Hospital as Reece required more specialist care.

He said that from the moment of arriving at the hospital, medics were pushed from pillar to post.

“On my arrival at King Edward I proceeded to the trauma unit. There was only one person in the resuscitation room area and I placed the patient onto a stretcher and was then told by a doctor that he needed to be taken to another unit, this caught me off guard because I have always known drowning to be trauma related.

“When I entered the other unit I found three nurses sitting writing notes. There was one patient in their unit who was fully conscious. I informed the nurses that I had this critical patient and was told that I must wait for the doctor to come in. A short while later a doctor informed me that he wouldn’t accept the patient as he has no ventilators.”

Nurses ‘refused to help’

Jamieson said that while medics continued to treat Reece, using equipment to keep his breathing steady, the nurses sat and watched and refused to help while the doctor left to use the telephone.

“He went and called someone to complain and this took some time. While he was on the phone the nurses sat watching us ventilating our patient.

“We ran out of oxygen and asked if we could use theirs and was told no we must use our own. I requested monitoring devices and was told that the nurses would not assist at all unless the doctor told them. We got more oxygen from our ambulance although we were in a fully equipped medical facility.”

Jamieson said that 15 minutes later the doctor returned and still tried to turn them away.

“He said we should go to another hospital. At this point I expressed my concern and disgust that an emergency unit could turn away a critically injured man without even stabilising him or assessing him.

The doctor said that he didn’t have any ventilators. All the while there were four unused ventilators in the trauma unit where we had been chased away from.

“This entire episode took 45 minutes at King Edward whilst we tried to find someone to accept this patient,” Jamieson lamented.

'Severe medical emergency'

Democratic Alliance Health spokesperson Dr Reshigen Viranna called for an immediate investigation.

“The true facts of this situation must be investigated and we need to know why this man was refused care. This may not be an isolated case and I will write to the MEC to question [about] the incident.”

“Our Constitution guarantees everyone the right to life and medical care in an emergency situation, especially in this case where the patient was in a critical condition. This is definitely a severe medical emergency,” he said.

Viranna added that Reece’s right to life superseded hospital policy.

“Hospitals in this province in this are extremely understaffed and it is the responsibility of the MEC to make sure that these problems are solved - I understand why they are picky about which patients they accept. In an emergency, exceptions should be made,” he said.

Health department officials confirmed that they were investigating the incident, however, could not make information available at the time of going to press.
Read more on:    durban  |  health
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