MEC liable for loss of leg due to negligence
ZELDA VENTER email@example.com
African News Agency
A FREAK accident during a friend's engagement party, when a man was pulled from behind and twisted his knee, has cost him dearly after his leg had to be amputated. This was because the hospital took more than seven hours to attend to the blockage in a blood vessel to his knee. It resulted in the cut of the blood flow to his leg, which in turn necessitated the amputation. The man, only identified as TM in the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg judgment, instituted a multi-million rand damages claim against the MEC for Health in Gauteng. The man's case was not that the hospital staff did not immediately attend to his injuries – this was done by a medical student who sent him for X-rays and scans – but that when it was clear that the blood flow to his leg was detected, more than seven hours passed before he was sent to an a vascular surgeon, who immediately attended to it. By that time, however, his leg could not be saved. The surgeon said if the patient had been referred to him earlier, he probably could have saved his leg. The court was told that in December 2016, TM attended a friend's engagement party in Protea Glen, Soweto. He was drawn into an altercation at the party. He was pulled from behind, fell back and twisted his knee. TM said the pain was instant and excruciating. He testified that he was unable to walk or stand. A friend took him immediately to the Chiawelo Clinic, where nursing staff attended promptly to him. They suspected a fractured knee and he was taken by ambulance to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. He arrived at Baragwanath at around 2.45am but was not examined until around 4.30am. The examination was done by a medical student, who noted a swollen and sensitive right knee. . She recommended an X-ray and CT scan. TM said that he was taken for an X-ray, which revealed that there was no fracture. Shortly before noon he was seen by a vascular surgeon. By the time this specialist saw him, TM's right foot was cold. The tissues starved of oxygen and other nutrients died and the limb had to be amputated above the knee. This was in spite of the fact that the specialist and other surgeons at Baragwanath tried to re-establish blood flow to the limb. TM instituted a claim for damages against the MEC, arising from the amputation of his leg. His case was that the MEC's staff at Baragwanath wrongfully and negligently failed to identify the nature of his injury in time. The MEC denied that TM's care was negligent and, even if it was negligent, that the negligence caused TM's loss. They argued that his loss was in fact caused by his own delay in seeking treatment after he sustained his injury. Judge Stuart Wilson said: “It has, in my view, been established on a balance of probabilities, that the failure to take steps to address the occlusion of TM's popliteal artery in the seven and a quarter hours between 04h30 and 11h45 was negligent.” He ruled that the MEC was 100% liable for the damages which TM can prove that he suffered.