Limpopo to pay for hospitals' negligence

2013-03-04 22:13
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Pretoria - The Limpopo government will have to pay over R1.7m to a housewife who might lose a leg after treatment received at two provincial hospitals.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday confirmed a settlement between 49-year-old Mokopane housewife Cornelia Wentzel and provincial authorities as an order of court.

Wentzel had to undergo a series of operations which left her in chronic pain and with one leg shorter than the other.

This was after medical staff at the Lephalale and Polokwane hospitals failed to treat her properly for a severely dislocated ankle seven years ago.

Wentzel was cleaning the swimming pool at her house when she slipped and dislocated her ankle.

She went to the Lephalale Hospital for treatment but was transferred to the Polokwane Hospital because her injury required specialist attention by an orthopaedic surgeon.

When she arrived at the Polokwane Hospital, no one knew about her.

She was made to wait in excruciating pain without any medication for about 12 hours until she was operated on the next morning.

According to court papers, the doctor who operated on her told her he did not need x-rays as he knew what he was doing.

He proceeded to operate using an epidural anaesthetic.

She was still conscious when the power supply to the theatre was suddenly cut off and she was carried on a sheet to another threatre because no trolleys were available.

The staff could at first not find the light switch to the new theatre, causing Wentzel to become so distressed that she asked for a full anaesthetic.


When she woke up, and asked for pain medication, staff told her the doctor had left for the weekend without leaving instructions for her further treatment.

They refused to help her even when blood started dripping onto the floor from her bandaged foot and told her she should return to the Lephalale Hospital.

Her husband eventually transferred her to her local hospital later that night where a doctor prescribed pain medication.

The same doctor kept on treating her for weeks until he removed the plaster from her foot and found that gangrene had set in.

She was immediately transferred to the Kalafong Hospital where she underwent numerous operations to save her foot, but was left with a shortened left leg, massive scars and chronic pain.

She lost the use of her left foot to a large degree.

Wentzel used to enjoy jogging, dancing and fishing with her husband but now battled even just to clean her home.

Dr D Mare described the treatment Wentzel had received as "scandalous" and said the don't-care attitude with which she was treated had destroyed her chances of successful treatment.

He said she should have been treated within an hour after arriving at Polokwane to save her foot but was inexplicably made to wait until the next morning.

It appeared as if the surgeon who operated on her was totally incompetent to handle the complicated surgery that was necessary and did not perform a successful procedure, resulting in excessive bleeding.

The surgeon thereafter abandoned his patient so that staff did not know what to do and "threw her back" at the doctor in Lephalale who admitted that he could not handle her injuries.

He said Wentzel needed further surgery but the pain in her foot was presently so bad that she might be better off if her leg was amputated below the knee.

Read more on:    polokwane  |  local government  |  health

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