Eastern Cape woman settles with state after swab left to rot in abdomen

2012-10-27 07:11

An Eastern Cape woman has successfully sued the state for R2.5 million after a surgeon left a swab the size of a hand towel to rot in her abdomen.

After more than a year of litigation, the matter was settled on Thursday and made an order of the East London High Court, the Weekend Post reported yesterday.

Zoliswa Quvane (28) a single mother and street vendor, had sued the Eastern Cape health department and Dr Sheridan Santhia, a former surgeon at East London’s Frere Hospital.

She nearly died in the process and the pain she suffered was so crippling she had to quit her job, losing the only source of income for herself and her two young children.

Due to a non-disclosure agreement, the Weekend Post could not reveal the amount she was paid out, but Quvane was thrilled with the settlement.

“I am very happy. I am relieved and excited to start my new life,” Quvane told the newspaper.

Judge Bonisile Sandi ruled that the money be paid into a trust account set up by Quvane’s legal team. He also made a costs order against the respondents.

Her woes began on April 1 2010, when she was admitted to Frere Hospital following a knife attack in Dutywa, where she worked.

Her stomach was sliced open and she was stabbed in the head and back.

Doctors managed to save her life, but the surgical swab about the size of a hand towel, used to soak up her blood remained inside her.

According to court papers, Santhia performed an exploratory laparotomy before suturing the wound with the swab still inside. After several days in hospital, Quvane was discharged.

However, she continued to suffer immense pain. For almost a year, doctors were unable to locate its source.

Quvane approached numerous private doctors and specialists at Butterworth Hospital for help. After seeing her swollen belly, one doctor suggested she might be pregnant.

A doctor referred her back to Frere, where, on March 9 2011, an X-ray revealed the object.

The swab was removed two days later, but her condition continued to deteriorate and she was admitted to the hospital’s high care ward, where she remained for about a month.

She subsequently brought legal action against Frere, Santhia, and the provincial health department.

Head of surgery at Stellenbosch University Professor Brian Warren filed an affidavit in support of her claim, saying the swab could have killed her.

He found the actions by Frere medical staff “unacceptable”.

Quvane claimed R2.5 million for general damages, pain and suffering, loss of amenities of life, past and future medical expenses, and past and future loss of income.

Health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo told the Weekend Post the matter would be investigated internally.

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