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Legal victory after ordeal – Women awarded R1,75 m after operation blunder


An ordeal that has reportedly caused one woman’s health to take a turn for the worst after an alleged blunder in the operating theatre at Polokwane Provincial Hospital in August 2009, continues to cause her physical discomfort and the Department of Health to accumulate interest on a capital sum for late payment of compensation following a High Court order.
Polokwane attorney Philip Smit, who represents the claimant in a civil matter that resulted in a R1,75 million pay-out by the department at the end of October this year, took Polokwane Observer through the time lines of a case that had its origin on 13 August 2009 when his client underwent a caesarean section procedure at Polokwane Provincial Hospital. She was 40 years old at the time.He said it started with a cotton swab having allegedly negligently been left in her abdomen during the procedure, leading to severe septicaemia and perforation of her colon in the months that followed. It nearly claimed her life, he added. According to Smit the foreign object had been discovered in X-rays acquired by a general practitioner from Mokgwadi, Kobus Venter, who referred her back to the hospital for emergency treatment on 29 December 2009.
She only received surgery for the removal of the swab on 12 January 2010, according to the information at hand. However, the cotton wool swab was perceived to have caused severe growths in her colon and eventual perforation thereof, which led to the discharge of faecal fluids into the abdomen, according to Smit. The nightmare continued, as a colostomy had to be performed after the removal of the swab. It was learnt that the procedure was later reversed after the colon healed.
Subsequently a civil suit was instituted against the Minister of Health to recover general damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenities, past and future medical costs as well as loss of earning capacity, Smit stated. He added that in February this year the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the claimant, awarding an amount of approximately R1,75 million, plus interest and costs.
Smit emphasised that in terms of the court order payment of damages had to be made within 14 days, which the department had failed to do. He proceeded with a writ of execution against the department and the Sheriff attached 400 computers, desks and work stations of the provincial head office of the department. Upon continued refusal by the department to pay, a notice of sale in execution and instructions for the Sheriff to remove the attached assets followed, whereupon payment of the capital sum had been made on 30 October, he indicated. The department had still failed to make payment of due interest of R95 281, which would necessitate further execution steps and costs against the department, it was learnt.
It was every patient’s right to be compensated fairly after suffering physically and financially, subsequent to poor medical treatment, Smit concluded.
>> See observer.co.za tomorrow for comment from the Department of Health.

>>[email protected]

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