Doctor uses R5 coin to heal hernia

2014-12-05 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG doctor has raised eyebrows by opting to treat a ­11-year-old girl’s umbilical hernia by bandaging a R5 coin on top of it.

Nozipho Mbhele, of Ladysmith, was due to undergo surgery at Northdale Hospital to correct the hernia on ­Tuesday, but was instead sent home with a coin taped to her stomach.

Hospital management said that using a coin was an accepted treatment, which was also endorsed by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

But independent surgeon and the DA spokesperson on health Dr Imran Keeka cried foul, and called for an immediate investigation.

Zodwa Hadebe said her daughter had been examined by a physician at a clinic in September, who referred the girl to Northdale Hospital for corrective ­surgery.

“The doctor touched her tummy and asked me if I had a R5 coin in my bag. She then placed the coin on her belly and put a plaster over it and sent us home,” she said.

Hadebe, a domestic worker, said she had no idea how long the coin ­treatment would take to heal her child.

“She said I must remove the coin at night and put it back during the day. But she did not tell me how long I should do this for, but said if I run out of bandages or plasters I must go to a local clinic to collect them.”

When The Witness visited the ­mother and daughter this week, the coin was still diligently placed over the hernia and covered with a plaster.

Hadebe added that she did not think to question the doctor because “she is a professional and knows better”.

“I doubted her but I did not say ­anything, but I was surprised and scared. She [the doctor] said Nozipho must wait until she is 18 years old to have an operation.”

Hadebe’s employer, Roelien Wiesener, said using a coin was unacceptable.

“This shows that there are thousands of children in our country who go to hospitals with serious conditions and are sent home without proper ­treatment because they have little knowledge,” Wiesener said.

“This angers me. Would she do that to her daughter? This is not good for the girl’s image. Justice should be done,” she said.

Hospital CEO Felicity du Preez ­denied that Nozipho was booked for an operation, saying she was referred from the clinic to the hospital for further management by surgeons.

“There was no malpractice in this case. Hernia treatment differs from ­patient to patient, depending on their age. Doctors decided not to operate on the child due to her age, and they are trying to give her a chance for her hernia to heal naturally,” she said.

She added that Nozipho was initially counselled and has been offered ­another consultation for further ­consultation and clarity.

A Pietermaritzburg surgeon, who asked not to be named, said it was news to him that coins were used to treat ­umbilical hernias.

“I have never heard of this being done and it is far from an accepted method of treatment. Maybe it is practised somewhere else, but I am not familiar with it,” he said.

Keeka said Hadebe must return to the hospital and insist that Nozipho is seen in the surgical outpatients department. “This is completely unacceptable, if true, and must be investigated. Coins don’t heal hernias. The patient must contact me so that I may be able to assist in getting to the bottom of this,” he said.


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