Elephantiasis sufferer turned away

2012-02-20 13:03

Port Elizabeth - A 37-year-old woman with elephantiasis has laid a complaint against Livingstone Hospital in Port Elizabeth after she was turned away without treatment, the Eastern Cape health department said on Monday.

"She alleges that one doctor allegedly told her to go to the casualty area where she waited for hours, and realising that she was not getting any help, she then broke down and cried," said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

He said the woman claimed she had open wounds and was in extreme pain as a result of the disease.

The woman - who visited the hospital on February 13 - said the doctors only looked through her file and then told her to go home to a clinic near her home just outside Port Elizabeth.

She then asked for an ambulance to take her home as she was finding it difficult to walk, but was told by ambulance personnel in casualty that she would have to pay R200 for a lift.

"She refused this and said she would rather get a private taxi to take her home."


Without any treatment, the woman further alleged, her open wounds attracted flesh-eating maggots and she decided to visit a traditional healer.

Kupelo said the department had been in contact with the hospital's CEO Thulani Madonsela, who was investigating the incident and in particular the doctors and nurses who had been involved. He would also be studying the woman's medical records.

Kupelo said that, according to the woman, she had been diagnosed with elephantiasis in 2006. However, she had not requested any treatment until she was admitted to Livingstone Hospital in January this year.

"She alleges on discharge she was not prescribed treatment. She says the pain is unbearable, she is bed-ridden, she cannot even use the wheelchair provided to her because she cannot [because of the disease] fit anymore.

Kupelo said the department was also going to take the matter further and try to help the woman with medical assistance.

Elephantiasis is a disease that affects the skin and tissue and is caused by parasitic worms.

  • Ben - 2012-02-20 13:50

    Considering the state the Eastern Cape Health system is in ,she's prob better off without em...

  • Leroy - 2012-02-20 13:52

    I will also get turned away from treatment if i can't pay? This is South Africa! nothing is for free!

      Achmad - 2012-02-20 14:02

      Nonsense - A doctor or nurse is there at a state institution to provide healthcare - payment is secondary. Think- this could be your partner or mother - how would your loved one was treated in this way? It appears that we have lost our humanity.

  • Mark - 2012-02-20 14:08


  • Se-a Spencer Ikeremm - 2012-02-20 14:15

    This is a state hospital? How could they!? This country is rotten. C'mon, everyone with some Ubuntu left in them, who have not been corrupted by the world- let's move to Antarctica.

  • Melanie - 2012-02-20 14:43

    This is a ripple affect that starts from Government. They don't care so, doctors and nurses have given up too. They only try to care when it's election time and unfortunately, we South Africans fall for the same empty promises every election. Sad, but true.

  • hutchdebeer - 2012-02-20 14:44

    I had to take my fiance for treatment of neuropathy, we had to wait in the queues from nine am till four pm to have the pharmacy window shut in your face and to be told that you cant get the medication needed, then your sent to Casualty for the treatment and they tell you to come back the next day because they do not stock medications higher than a schedule three, so i had a discussion with one of the executives...she mentioned and i quote " we dont care anymore because we dont get paid overtime".Nothing stopped them from just giving my fiance the medication apart from TIME!!They start closing the pharmacies early because once the clock hits four pm they have to be out because o OVERTIME?

      Sydney - 2012-02-21 10:51

      This is true, I've witnessed it for myself!!

  • Charmaine - 2012-02-20 14:52


  • bradleybrits - 2012-02-20 14:52

    What rare pathology.. I'd love to see this lady just for the privilege of seeing something so uncommon. I'd gladly see this lady if she can get to my clinic (kalafong hospital).

  • grantybobbins - 2012-02-20 14:56

    I was nearly turned away by the nurse at the recpetion of a Bela Bela private hospital. I am only medical aid but because i did not have R1200 casualty fee on me and suggested i go to the public hospital 10km away, they were refusing to help me. I was stung by a bee and I am deadly allergic and was battling to breathe. luckily another nurse saw me struggling to stand and breath and helped me. If it was up to the other lady it would have ended differently

  • Linda - 2012-02-20 15:05

    call the 3rd degree, Deborah Patta!!

  • Anton - 2012-02-20 15:06

    it saddens me to think of this woman's pain and suffering. there are a few things to consider though: 1) how critical was her problem when she presented to the hospital in Feb? there isnt any acute treatment for 'Eliphantiasis'. 2) many patients abuse the system by bypassing their clinics. The clinics have doctors that will get the patient referred to the hospital within hours if necessary, or threat it at clinic level. 3) what did the traditional healer do for her leg? probably caused the maggots. No patient with septic sores will ever be refused hospital treatment. Indeed the health department is struggling, doctors are drowning in patients etc. The solution should start at the top. Please know that we as doctors in LVH give it our all, we work illegal and dangerous amounts of hours, and reading articles and especially comments like this is demotivating.

      Wall - 2012-02-20 15:40

      I was just about to post a similar comment. People generally don't seem to be aware of the referral system in public health - you can't just walk into any public hospital that you want to, you have to start at your clinic (which the article implies this person did not do). If you don't, you're clogging up the system and delaying your own and other people's treatment.

      lollyfriedman - 2012-02-20 19:32

      :) so true

  • Ricky - 2012-02-20 16:26

    I recently had a family member who was unfortunate enough to end up in Livingstone Hospital because of a misunderstanding. We had to fight for THREE DAYS to get a person who was busy dying transferred to the right hospital because noone wanted to speak to us in English or even acknowledge that we were in the room. What is going on there is SHOCKING and equivalent to a horror movie. Critically ill people who can be saved by prompt action are receiving NO treatment from doctors or nurses. In the upstairs hospital wards, women are lying stark naked, without any bedding on stretchers in the hallways waiting to die. The Eastern Cape Department of Health should be ASHAMED of themselves. They are murdering people and committing FRAUD by accepting our tax money as funding whilst they have no intention of fulfill their mandate. I wish an investigative journalism program like Carte Blanche or 3rd Degree would take them on - not that it would really change anything.

  • jenny.gormanandrews1 - 2012-02-20 18:37

    I'm a nursing sister at a state hosital in Johannesburg. I've resigned and I'm leaving the end of February. The things I have seen going on absolutely apall me and I feel very embarrassed to even be associated with the nursing profession!

  • Adam - 2012-02-20 18:55

    its easy for u all to say what u want to say. have u hearfd the doctors and nurses side of the story yet? i didnt think so! I am one of the drs working there. I was probably there on that particular day, though i must admit i do not recall that incident. livingstone hospital is one of 3 state hospitals serving a population of more than a million, as well as many other hospitals in the eastern cape who refer their patients to our hospital, Livingstone. One of the other 3 hospitals mentioned does not have a functioning casualty anymore (closed down. why? budget constraints!) What has happened to the extra load from that hospitals casualty? They are directed to Livingstone Casualty! Amazing! So the doctor patient ratio worsens! Try functioning in that chaos, where accompanying escorts of the oatient have no respect for other patient's privacy. In the casualty area where patients are examined, they are all present! The security guards helps us to escort them away, only for it to fill up again. This is not fair. And then try functioning in such an environment where drunkards and gangsters are there, shouting and swearing at you to see to their injuries sustained (gunshot wounds and other violence-related traumas). We as the doctors put our lives in danger. Trying talking to some is like trying to talk to a brick wall: they have no respect for doctors anymore! Accident and emergency department is for just that: ACCIDENT and EMERGENCY! Not at Livingstone!...

  • Adam - 2012-02-20 19:03

    "Accident and Emergency" does not apply at Livingstone! All "cold cases" types rock up, wanting to be seen! Local clinics have been provided for such "cold cases". People do not make use of these clinics! If at a clinic the case is deemed more serious, the onus is on the Dr or nursed to pick up the phone and call the receiving Dr at the A & E at Livingstone to discuss the case. Again, this DOES NOT HAPPEN! Also, there is a drainage system. Certain folks from certain areas should try and visit hospitals or clinics in their area, especiallyif they are presen there. Many times, this does not happen: they bypass all of this and will make their way to the "higher" hospital, Livingstone. All these measures have been put into place to decrease the load on the medical staff, and to make quality of care a bit better for the patients, as Drs will be able to devote more attention to the emergencies. What happens instead? Everything is rushed so as to try and get through the load. Otherwise people will complain! There is sometimes no regard for emergencies, as certain not-so-serious cases (patients) want to know why it is that the Dr by-passes them and sees to the patient on the stretcher. BECAUSE THE STRETCHER CASE is the EMERGENCY case! Imagine if we had to skip all the emergencies, and tend to the colder cases (not so serious) just because the patient has arrived there first! That would be wrong. Known elephantiasis is not considered an emergency case.

      Achmad - 2012-02-21 08:46

      Adam, I think what we are all trying to absorb is the enormity of the task and what we as individuals can do about it. The problem is complex and I am sure requires a lot of goodwill, commitment and dedication to reverse and then finally resolve. There are no winners here, only unfortunate people that are caught up in the system. If we look at what Ghandi did, when faced with an even larger problem, he concentrated on the face in front of him, one at a time. A smile, an acknowledgment of a shared burden, would just make it seem more bearable - even for a brief moment.

  • Adam - 2012-02-26 23:21

    achmad. though we may suffer with burn-out, that does not mean that we dont smile and try to converse with the patients in a genial manner! To not EVER get upset as a staff member in such an environment is IMPOSSIBLE! Working their is really a test of one's patience and temperance. I woke up one day and wondered HOW IT WAS that I turned out to be so monster-like? I deceided to change! It helped! I am much more calm and helpful towards my patients! I try my BEST to make them feel at ease! To say that I DONT EVER lose it would be a lie! I do! I go crazy at times! That is what u are driven to! Imagine knowing that you are surrounded by many potential death victims AT ONE TIME! Its the adrenaline rush and pressure that sends you into DEFENCE mode. Otherwise, to absorb all of that would send you into a nervous break-down. Ironically, people always wonder at my calmness! I am mostly a calm person, even in such emergency-like environment! I think death is like the ultimate thing. People have been put into all sorts of situations in life that are testing. The worst, I think, would have to be death. Saving individuals from death is my bread and butter. Emotions are BOUND to run high. I am, first and foremost, a human being! then a doctor! And DEFINITELY not a robot! The working envirnment should change! Politics should change. I cannot explain this: that is a topic that goes BEYOND the scope of this conversation! I am HAUNTED by death, therefore I SLAVE towards preventing it!

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