The Star E-dition

MEC to pay damages after man loses leg


AN UNFORTUNATE incident 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.

The hospital took more than seven hours to attend to the blockage in a blood vessel to his knee. This resulted in the restriction 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 multimillion-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 had passed before he was sent to 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 that the pain from this injury 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 Academic Hospital.

He arrived at Baragwanath at around 2.45am. A patient record was opened for TM at 3.29am, but he was not examined until around 4.30am.

The examination was done by a medical student.

The medical student noted a swollen and sensitive right knee. The student could not detect any sign of blood flow to the right foot, but she noted that TM still had some sensation in his lower right limb.

The medical student recommended that an X-ray and CT scan be taken.

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.

The latter immediately diagnosed that the knee injury had resulted in a blockage to a blood vessel in TM’s knee. That blockage had effectively cut off the blood supply to his right lower limb.

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 to prevent the necessity of amputation.

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 to save his right leg.

The MEC denied both 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.

It was argued on behalf of TM that if he had not been left untreated for more than seven hours, things could have turned out differently.

The vascular surgeon said had he been faced with the observations of the medical student who originally saw TM, he would have taken immediate action.

He explained that the practice at Baragwanath was for a medical student on duty to immediately report observations of the nature made by the student who saw TM to a more senior physician.

The MEC led no evidence to establish that this happened, 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,” the judge said.

He ruled that the MEC was 100% liable for the damages which TM can prove that he had suffered.





African News Agency