The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has initiated an investigation into the death of a 23-year-old woman and her unborn baby at one of its hospitals.

Newly appointed Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu promised stern action over the “suspicious” death, saying anyone found guilty of negligence in connection with the incident would be dealt with.

Sithembile Shabane was admitted to General Justice Gizenga Memorial Hospital, formerly Stanger Hospital, over the weekend.

Simelane-Zulu said the investigation would probe allegations of staff negligence, the delayed arrival of the ambulance that transported Shabane to hospital, and details of how she was “managed” by the hospital.

“The incident has sparked anger in the community, with some residents threatening to march to the clinic and cause damage to it,” Simelane-Zulu said.  

She said the department was first alerted to the incident after receiving a call on Saturday from a resident and a local councillor, “complaining that a young person had died under suspicious circumstances”.

“The community was quite upset by this as there were allegations of negligence on the part of the staff, so we had to come here to see for ourselves and engage with them to find out what actually happened. Fortunately, the family was represented and the community was there, and we were able to have a discussion.”

Simelane-Zulu said all parties had agreed that a detailed report, expected to be completed in 30 days, was the next step.

Vusi Hlekwayo, a representative of the Shabane family, expressed sadness.

“We are sad that we’ve just lost our loved one due to the negligence that occurred at a government hospital. It gives us great pain that someone has passed away due to [alleged] inadequate care. We plead with the MEC for this matter not to be taken lightly and followed through to a point where we are satisfied as a family.”

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