Cops block rescue doctor

2008-08-22 00:00

Pietermaritzburg traffic police arrested a doctor rushing to save a patient — who died in his arms — when the doctor finally arrived.

Vumeluyise Ngcobo, a Camperdown businessman and brother-in-law of former Pietermaritzburg mayor Sphiwe Gwala, died of natural causes in the Midlands Private Hospital’s ICU at 9 pm on Thursday. His family, including Gwala, were at the hospital waiting in vain, unaware of why the doctor was delayed.

Ngcobo’s doctor, who did not want to be named, said he was called to the hospital at about 7.30 pm. Five minutes later, he was at the hospital gate, but was unable to find parking because a traffic police vehicle was blocking the entrance to the designated emergency parking.

“I tried to find parking in Masukwana Street [outside the hospital], but there was none available. I asked a hospital security guard to tell the traffic cop to remove the vehicle. The trouble started after I asked the cop why he was obstructing the hospital driveway,” said the doctor.

The officer grabbed the doctor’s keys, pulled him out of his vehicle and handcuffed him.

Traffic officer Bonginkosi Mpangase confirmed that he arrested the doctor, but said the doctor did not tell him he was responding to an emergency call.

“They took me to Loop Street police station and charged me with failing to comply with an instruction of a traffic officer. I told them many times that I was rushing to help a critically ill patient, but they did not take me seriously,” said the doctor.

The doctor finally arrived at the hospital, but “the patient died while I was busy stabilising him. If I had not been delayed, the possibility is that I would have stabilised his condition,” he said.

Mpangase said that as he was reversing out of the hospital, the doctor arrived and accused him of blocking the entrance.

“I warned him to stop interfering with my job, but he continued. “He never mentioned that he was rushing to attend to a patient.”

Family members believe the doctor could have saved Ngcobo’s life had he arrived earlier.

Ngcobo’s sister said: “When he arrived at Midlands [from Edendale Hospital, on Thursday] he was in a stable condition. But as we were waiting for the doctor, his condition deteriorated.”

Witnesses to the incident are asked to contact the hospital.

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