State pays for botched op

2008-09-10 00:00

The KZN Health MEC is to pay R225 696 by October 14, plus legal costs, to a Northdale man whose wife died after undergoing a surgical procedure at King Edward VIII hospital in Durban in May 2003.

At the time of her death, Annette Raman was the breadwinner of her family.

She was supporting her husband, who is disabled after suffering polio, and their daughter, who was then eight years old, according to documents before the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Krishna Raman told The Witness yesterday it has been a long struggle for survival for him and his daughter since his late wife’s death, and he welcomed yesterday’s settlement.

He said he was infected with polio in 1986 and was unable to continue his employment in a shoe factory.

His wife was 45 years old when she died. The couple also have an adult daughter.

The Health Ministry initially opposed the claim by Raman for payment of damages totalling R359 503, based on his wife’s projected income, but later admitted liability.

Yesterday’s order, which was granted by KZN Deputy Judge President Phillip Levinsohn, was obtained by consent.

It was alleged on behalf of Raman in court papers that his late wife was admitted to King Edward VIII on May 22, 2003 for a “gastroscopy” and other medical care by ear, nose and throat specialists and hospital staff.

A surgical procedure was allegedly performed on May 23, during which the patient’s oesophagus was perforated by the insertion of a scope and staff allegedly also failed to administer “diligent” post-operative care.

Raman was said to have died on May 25 as a result of the negligent conduct of the surgeon and staff concerned.

Asked to comment on the matter yesterday, Leon Mbangwa, a spokesman for the KZN Health Department, said the department is “disappointed with health professionals who commit such deadly acts that also cost the taxpayer such a lot of money”.

He said he expects the Health Professionals Council to intervene and take proper steps against the health workers found to have acted negligently.

He added that the department can also take disciplinary action against the staff if no action has already been taken.

“We employ these health workers only after they have been registered with the health professional bodies. We therefore expect that these bodies will move in and take proper disciplinary action against these individuals. Such action can even include blacklisting these individuals if they are found to have acted negligently.”

Mbangwa added that the department has advertised for a provincial Health Ombudsman to try to ensure that health professionals are more accountable and to try to minimise negligent behaviour on the part of healthcare workers.

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