No filming — or dying — without KZN Health’s ‘official authorisation’

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A viral video on social media that shows seriously ill patients lying unattended, while one patient — who later died — pleads for her breathing tube, has been slammed by the head of KwaZulu-Natal Health as “robbing patients of their dignity”, because it was filmed without “official authorisation”.

Dr Sandile Tshabalala, says the filming of patients in hospitals is a serious invasion of privacy. SABC News reports that he was reacting to a video making the rounds on social media, depicting a patient pleading for assistance while others are seen sleeping on the floor or in chairs at the Wentworth Hospital.

A high-level delegation of managers has since been dispatched to establish the facts and also come up with an immediate resolution. Tshabalala says it is sad to know that these patients were robbed of their dignity by being filmed, without official authorisation.

“We are disappointed that there are people that do not mind other people’s dignity, respect and confidentiality so much that when they go to hospital they go and take videos of people in that space who are needing assistance and are waiting and without even the concern of the people they are taking videos off. The videos are of patients who are waiting in an area that we call the patient under investigation area.”


The elderly woman who was pleading for help, in a widely shared video taken at Wentworth Hospital, has died, reports News24. Rowena Hawkey (69) is seen in the clip seemingly in extreme respiratory anguish, pleading for assistance.

Hawkey is shown shouting, “I can’t breathe! Please get me out of here. Hello, hello. Please get this [indistinguishable]. I’m going to die like this. This tube here, please give it to me. I’ve asked everybody to help me… No one wants to help me. nobody. I can’ t live like this,” she cries.

Patients are shown lying on the floor and hunched in chairs with no help being administered by medical staff. The man filming it, who is apparently unable to move from his own bed, says, “Itʼs f*****g bullshit, Iʼm taping this and putting it on social media.”

The report says the KZN Health Department confirmed on Monday that the hospital shown in the clip was Wentworth. The department said they had established that the patients in the clip were awaiting their COVID-19 results, also known as Patients Under Investigation (PUIs). ”

On the day in question, the hospital had received a particularly high number of patients. Additionally, 11 doctors were away in isolation, after testing positive. A further 17 nursing staff were off, due to COVID-19. Six nurses were in charge of the Accidents and Emergency Unit, as well as a 28–bedded short stay ward with very sick patients.

They said the “delegation from head office has since assisted the hospital to ensure that patient flow is management properly”, through the following interventions:

Making alterations at Wentworth Hospitalʼs Accidents and Emergency Unit, which has created space for more beds, which will help alleviate congestion; and sending recovering patients to Clairwood Hospital, which has ample space, while those who need oxygen are sent to isolation.

Meanwhile, the report quotes Dr Rishigen Viranna, DAʼs KZN spokesperson on health, as saying they were horrified by the video. “While we understand that KZNʼs healthcare system is extremely stretched, the conditions and lack of patient care are completely unacceptable, inhumane and possibly unconstitutional. Section 27 of the South African Constitution confirms the right to access proper health care.”


Full SABC News report


Full News24 report


Video – Warning distressing content



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