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Dept sued for R12m over amputation


He is suing the MEC for Health for the alleged negligence of medical staff at Kuruman Hospital as well as permanent disfigurement as a result of the amputation along with the loss of income.

File image.

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health will be defending a R12 million negligence claim after a patient’s arm had to be amputated at Kimberley Hospital when he developed gangrene.

This is despite the Clinical Complaints Review Committee (CCRC) identifying gross mismanagement.

The 37-year -old patient was assaulted with a wooden plank in 2014 and a plaster of Paris cast was applied at Kuruman Hospital for his fractured forearm. He returned to the hospital the following day as he was in extreme pain and his arm was covered in blisters.

Due to transport problems, the patient was only transferred to Kimberley Hospital two days later, where his arm had to be amputated above the elbow after his fingers turned black.

Blisters extended from his elbow to his hand and his arm was swollen and he was unable to move his fingers and hand.

According to a medical report compiled by a private surgeon, the plaster of Paris was applied “in all probability too tight, which caused gangrene where amputation was inevitable”.

The patient, who resides in Danielskuil, was an artisan but is unemployed following the amputation.

He is suing the MEC for Health for the alleged negligence of medical staff at Kuruman Hospital as well as permanent disfigurement as a result of the amputation along with the loss of income.

In court papers, his legal representative stated that his client, Joseph Jacobs, was discharged without undergoing a medical examination and without being prescribed any medication at Kuruman Hospital.

In the papers it was pointed out that his condition was not properly diagnosed and that no X-rays were taken of his arm, while the medical staff at Kuruman Hospital acted with “gross negligence by rendering services that was of a poor standard”.

“He experienced severe psychological shock and trauma and will continue to experience this intermittently in the future.”

The provincial Department of Health denied any liability or negligence and stated that “all reasonable steps were taken to prevent injury and damage”.

It denied that the condition of the patient was due to the negligence of staff at either Kuruman or Kimberley Hospital.

“The department is now aware of and does not know the identities of the ‘staff of the hospital’ referred to.

“The department complied with all its obligations in accordance with its duty of care and in a reasonable non-negligent manner.”

It added that a medical evaluation was conducted, that X-rays were taken of the arm and that the patient left Kuruman Hospital of his own accord, against their advice to remain for further treatment and undergo a control X-ray.

“Sufficient X-rays were taken to allow a proper diagnosis.”

The chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, questioned the basis on which the claim was being defended.

“The department appears to be getting incorrect legal advice as it does not have a strong case, especially since the Quality Assurance Department at the Department of Health identified gross mismanagement. Once again, taxpayers’ money is being squandered on a case that it is likely to lose in court,” said Henderson.

He pointed out that the patient was prepared to consider an out of court settlement although no offer had been put on the table.

“He was a bricklayer and now he is unemployed and lives in a shanty.”

Henderson added that the lawsuit for a negligence claim for a child that was born with cerebral palsy at Galeshewe Day Hospital has since escalated from R17 million to R40 million.

“The child, who is unable to talk, is mentally disabled and a quadriplegic. The state attorney’s office initially proposed a R17 million out of court settlement in the negligence case. However, the department dismissed their advice and appointed a private law firm from Johannesburg to defend the case.”

He stated that the mandate of Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys in the case was terminated due to the lack of progress on the case.

“After paying Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys for more than two years, the case has been referred to Towell and Groenewald Attorneys.”

Henderson also questioned the so-called R50 million that the HOD for Health’s task team had apparently “saved” the department in a space of five months.

“These are dormant files at the Northern Cape High Court that can be revived at any time.”

The spokesperson for the provincial Department of Health, Lulu Mxekezo, stated that the department could not discuss the individual medico-legal claims.

“This would compromise the doctor-patient confidentiality and those cases are not finalised so they are sub judice,” said Mxekezo.