EC constable's grieving family demand answers after shock virus death

Zandile Nakani, 39, a constable at Madeira Police station in Mthatha, was buried last week.
Zandile Nakani, 39, a constable at Madeira Police station in Mthatha, was buried last week.
Image: Elvis Ntombela

The family of a police officer who died of Covid-19 is demanding answers from St Mary's Private Hospital after she initially tested negative for the virus.

Zandile Nakani, 39, a constable at Madeira Police station in Mthatha, was buried last week.

Her older sister, Ntombizanele Nakani-Poswa,  said Nakani tested negative after being admitted to the hospital on May 19 but was placed in a ward with a patient who had Covid-19.

The family was shocked to hear Nakani had been transferred to the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) and a second test showed she had contracted the coronavirus.

“They are not explaining how she ended up with Covid-19 and died from it,” said the grieving sibling.

“They must tell me what happened. As the Nakani family, we need an explanation from the hospital.”

Contacted for comment, Life Healthcare Border Kei head Bruce Janssens said it was highly improbable Nakani had been infected by another patient as stringent precautions were followed at the hospital.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson captain Khaya Tonjeni confirmed Nakani had worked in the Mthatha station and described her as hardworking and passionate about serving the community.

Nakani-Poswa said her late sister was admitted on May 19 with body and chest pains and general weakness. “She was tested the same day and her results came back negative three days later.”

She said her sister spoke of overhearing a nurse telling another patient in the day ward, where she was being treated, that another patient had tested positive.

Nakani-Poswa said this patient had confirmed to her sister that she had Covid-19.

Nakani-Poswa said she herself had tested negative.

“I went to a private lab to be tested on May 25 and two days later the results came back negative. I was the one who did everything for Zandile, including washing her and changing her clothes.”

On June 6, she was told Nakani was in ICU and on life support as she was struggling to breathe.

A second test came back positive.

“ She passed away on June 11 and the family was told to arrange for a funeral parlour of their choice to come and fetch the body. They were also told to inform the parlour staff to wear protective clothing as the person died from Covid-19.”

Nakani was buried last Tuesday.

Janssens said patients "under investigation" were admitted into a designated ward while they awaited their test results.

“All patients and employees are protected with masks while in the hospital, whether positive or negative. Patients in the same ward do not come into close contact with each other at any time and it is highly improbable that a positive patient ward would have infected Ms Nakani.”

Once  a patient received a negative test result they were moved to a Covid-19 negative ward and all infection protocols were strictly followed, he added.

But, Janssens said, it was possible to receive a “false negative”.  There had been instances where patients' initial test results came back negative, only for them  to test positive later.

But in Nakani's case there was “inadequate information to determine if the infection was community-acquired or from exposure within the hospital”.

So far 35 patients have died of Covid-19 at  St Mary's.

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