Durban – The family of an elderly woman who was seen struggling to breathe and screaming for help at Wentworth Hospital in a video that circulated on social media has confirmed she is dead.
Rowena Hawkey, 67, of Berea, died of cardiac arrest on January 6, two days after being taken to Wentworth Hospital, according to the family.
Her nephew, Allon Pretorius, said Hawkey’s daughter Theresa was only told of her mother’s death on January 8 when she went to the hospital to visit her.
Pretorius said Hawkey’s death and the alleged mistreatment she received was very distressing for the family.
“We would like to know what really happened and why Rowena did not receive the proper care to which she was entitled,” he said.
Pretorius said he was very disturbed by the video.
“It was very painful to see my aunt suffer so much. I couldn’t sleep last night (Monday). Every time I closed my eyes, I replayed the images.
“It also saddens me that we only heard about his death a few days after his death,” he said.
He said if the video was shared without the family’s permission, the fact that his aunt had not been helped shouldn’t be ignored.
Another close relative, Marc Ladeira, said his aunt suffered from chronic asthma and silicosis.
Ladeira said on January 4, Hawkey was having difficulty breathing and an ambulance was called.
He said she was not immediately admitted to Wentworth Hospital and had to wait more than 12 hours in a wheelchair.
“She sat there from Monday, 4 p.m., through the night without covers until 7 a.m. the next day, which was Tuesday,” he said.
Ladeira said Hawkey was finally admitted to the C2 ward at 8 a.m. and was treated by two male doctors.
He told his cousin, Theresa was informed by the hospital that her mother had suffered a heart attack and that she could not be resuscitated.
Theresa informed the rest of the family the next morning.
Ladeira said her 78-year-old UK-living mother Hawkey’s older sister called him sobbing after learning of her death.
He said Hawkey had difficulty breathing after nearly drowning when she was 3 years old.
He added that the family had no idea there was a video of his aunt until he dropped her on social media while he was at work on Monday.
“I had to stop, you know when you know someone and you know their voice … It’s like a twist in the heart,” he said.
Ladeira said after the initial horror and shock he sent the video to his family who were appalled at what they saw.
“I am upset by the situation, but I appreciate that someone is sharing the video because we would not have known his last moments,” he said.
However, he said after seeing the video, it didn’t appear that his aunt died of cardiac arrest.
Ladeira said he had issues with the way his aunt was treated before and after his admission.
“The only question I would ask the staff is, ‘Would you treat your own parents or your children like this? “
In a statement released on Monday, the KZN health ministry said the video was shot on December 22 and the incident was under investigation.
But Ladeira said her aunt did not go to the hospital until January 4.
Pretorius said the family were considering their options regarding legal action against the Health Ministry.
He said Ladeira would contact a Durban law firm about the matter.
“We cannot collectively let something like this happen,” Ladeira said.
He said that if he understood the Covid-19 crisis and the shortage of resources the country was facing, there was no excuse for what had happened.
Ladeira said her aunt has the constitutional right to life and to be treated with dignity.
He said the chief executive of Wentworth Hospital called him Tuesday afternoon to offer his condolences.
The Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment in response to the allegations by Hawkey’s family.
Hawkey’s daughter Theresa was unavailable for comment on Tuesday as she was minding her mother’s business and finalizing the funeral arrangements.
The funeral will be held in a private ceremony on Friday.