We tried our best - doctor tells inquiry

2013-08-01 21:42


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Pietermaritzburg - A doctor at Pietermaritzburg's Edendale Hospital on Thursday said staff tried their best to save a man admitted, after a fitness test for Road Traffic Inspectorate (RTI) job applicants.

"We try our best to get good care for patients with the resources we have. Health care is always limited by resources. There's always more we'd like to do that we can't do," head of internal medicine Dr Douglas Wilson, told an inquiry into the deaths of eight people following the test.

Advocate Ravenda Padayachee, for the transport department, asked Wilson if he was suggesting the hospital's lack of capacity was being used as an excuse for the man's death.

Wilson was testifying in Pietermaritzburg before a commission probing the deaths of the eight, who took part in a 4km run at the city's Harry Gwala Stadium in December.

More than 34 000 people qualified to apply.

A total of 15 600 applicants attended a fitness test on 27 December and a similar number on 28 December.

Wilson was being questioned about the treatment of Xolani Gumede, who died in the hospital five days after he took part in the test.

According to Gumede's blood tests, conducted on 27 and 28 December, his potassium levels were low. Potassium levels that are too high or low could affect the heart rate.

On 31 December, a doctor prescribed potassium for Gumede without having the results of his blood analysis. Padayachee said this was a mistake.

Blood tests were only done again on 31 December but doctors did not check the results because of staff constraints.

Gumede died on 1 January.


Padayachee asked Wilson why the hospital's laboratory did not call the ward to raise the alarm that his potassium levels were too high.

Wilson said he did not know if the hospital had the capacity to phone the ward in an emergency.

If the hospital's ward had the results on 31 December, it would have detected that Gumede's potassium had gone up and treated him.

"We tried our best to help him with the team we had. Gumede's kidney failed, his potassium went up. The pace of the illness exceeded capacity to respond," Wilson said.

Padayachee said if the hospital had taken blood tests on 29 and 30 December it would have also have picked up that Gumede had renal failure.

Wilson said the hospital was aware of the renal failure and tried its best to help him.

Wilson said Gumede's death could have been caused by his left thigh being swollen.

The swelling was caused by blood clots which went into his lungs.

Another likely cause was the fluctuation of potassium levels which may have caused cardiac arrest.

The inquiry continues on Monday.

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