Nightmare for Limpopo boys as doctor botches circumcisions

Some boys have missed school as a result of a botched circumcision in Mokopane. Picture: Leon Sadiki
Some boys have missed school as a result of a botched circumcision in Mokopane. Picture: Leon Sadiki

Parents up in arms after sons’ circumcisions are botched at the surgery of a medical doctor contracted to perform the procedures.

They did not attend any initiation school but almost 20 Limpopo boys, some as young as 10, have missed over a month of schooling.

They spent time wearing dresses, hoping their mutilated manhoods would heal faster.

More than two months after the botched circumcisions, their wounds have not healed, with at least one still in hospital awaiting reconstructive surgery.

These boys’ cases are among 19 of adverse events – an injury sustained or an undesired outcome from a medical procedure or treatment – from voluntary medical male circumcisions in the Mokopane area.

The Aurum Institute, a healthcare organisation, has confirmed that 16 of these cases, most of them severe, were done by a Mokopane-based medical doctor contracted to perform circumcisions on its behalf.

The doctor, whose name is known to City Press, cannot be named as he has not responded to questions sent to him by email for comment.

About 60 circumcisions are believed to have been performed at the privately owned medical centre in Mokopane on June 15, a day after schools closed.

According to a service level agreement signed with the doctor, the Aurum Institute was to pay him R700 for each procedure performed.

The mutilated boys’ parents claim that the doctor did not do the circumcisions himself but “left the boys to be circumcised by untrained people at his surgery”.

Parents now regret the day they signed consent forms brought by the boys from schools.

This week, the Limpopo health department expressed shock at the botched circumcisions.

“Just from looking at the pictures of the injuries sustained by these young boys, I don’t have to be a medical practitioner to tell that this is a botched circumcision. If it was done by a medical practitioner then they must be sent back to medical school,” said the province’s health MEC, Phophi Ramathuba, a qualified medical doctor herself.

The boys and their parents

*David Nkamo said parents were under the impression that the circumcision project was endorsed by the schools when the boys brought home consent forms.

“It was even more convincing because a teacher from my nephew’s school was the one taking them to the medical centre in Mokopane.

“My nephew came back in pain and when we looked down there, it appeared as if they wanted to slice off the head of his penis as well,” he said.

His 12-year-old nephew is a Grade 5 pupil at one of the primary schools.

“We took him to a local hospital where he was examined, and we were told the doctor who circumcised him was supposed to do regular follow-ups and ensure that everything was alright.

“He spent his time [after the circumcision] in a dress. He went in and out of hospital but his wound was not healing,” the uncle said. “The boys are telling us that they were circumcised by some women and a man and not by the doctor.

“All the doctor ever did was washing the wound and dressing it and two months later when you look at the wound, you’ll swear he was circumcised just earlier today,” Nkamo said.

Another parent, *Samuel Mabaso, said his 10-year-old son was taken for circumcision by a teacher from his school.

“He came back in pain, his wound swelling, and we took him back to the same medical centre the following day. And all they did was grind some tablets, sprinkle the powder on a bandage they used to dress the wound. The boys were suffering but it did not look like the doctor cared at all and it was all left to parents to run around trying to get them help.”

On the allegations that a teacher was involved in the recruitment of the boys and that consent forms for the circumcisions were sent from the schools, Limpopo education spokesperson Sam Makondo said: “Circumcision happens when schools are on recess and what educators do during school holidays is a matter that we view as private.

“Whatever they do is their private business and its not done in the name of the department.”

Department is concerned

Ramathuba said a medical facility was the last place where they would have expected such severe cases of “adverse events” would happen.

“Last year we had zero deaths from traditional circumcisions and this year from the June season, we had three. All those deaths happened in unregistered schools that were not getting support from the department.

“Then we received a complaint last week from a concerned parent whose son had been circumcised at a private facility in Mokopane,” she said.

“A team was immediately activated to visit the boys who were taken to a urologist and some of them were hospitalised and will undergo reconstructive surgery.”

Ramathuba said it was “painful that we’re winning [at traditional] initiation schools and now we find ourselves here with male medical circumcision which is a regression really”.

“Traditional [initiation] schools are doing a great job compared to what we have seen in these cases,” she said.

Meanwhile, the MEC said an investigation was under way to determine who had performed the procedures, if they had been trained to do so and why it resulted in adverse events.

Ramathuba said the Health Professions’ Council of SA would also be asked to investigate if there was any breach of ethics by the doctor and act accordingly.

Aurum Institute Acts

Aurum Institute spokesperson Khanya Ndaki said they were notified of the adverse events which involved serious cases of infections early in July by an employee.

“We investigated this matter, and it was found that 19 clients had been either treated as out-patients or hospitalised for treatment of adverse events related to voluntary medical male circumcision – primarily wound infections.

“As a precaution, we suspended our contract with [the implicated doctor] as soon as we were made aware of the findings,” said Ndaki.

She said the doctor in question was “properly trained and instructed on safe medical circumcision”.

“Our contract states that the circumcisions must be done by the contracted service provider – a health practitioner who has been fully vetted by Aurum - and this should not be outsourced,” Ndaki said.

*Names have been changed to protect the boys’ identities

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