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The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has accepted liability
for the medical negligence of two of its south Durban institutions after a six-year-old boy’s leg had to be amputated after he got gangrene when his broken ankle was not treated correctly.
Thokozani Mkhize filed a R3.3 million lawsuit against the department and MEC for health after her son, Minenhle, now nine, had to have his left leg amputated below the knee on May 14, 2008, at uMlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni Hospital.
According to papers filed in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Minenhle fractured his ankle on April 30, 2008, after falling from a tree.
He was treated as an outpatient at the hospital, where his leg was put into a plaster cast below the knee. On May 1 that year, he was taken back to the hospital by his mother who was concerned about the excessive pain Minenhle was suffering.
“We were told that this was normal and that we should return to the hospital for a further assessment in three weeks,” Mkhize said in court papers.
However, Minenhle was still in pain and the next day his mother took him back to the hospital.
“I was told that Minenhle was not entitled to be examined by the doctor and we were sent home,” she said.
“On May 5, I took him to the Malukazi Clinic, where he was examined and the doctors informed me that everything was in order.”
On May 8, Minenhle was unable to move the toes on his left foot, and they had become discoloured.
His mother took him back to Prince Mshiyeni and the cast was removed.
Blisters had developed on Minenhle’s leg, which by this time had become dark in colour, and the little boy was admitted to hospital.
Mkhize said that the doctors advised her the next day that the blood supply to Minenhle’s leg had been blocked and that an amputation was necessary.
The operation was done on May 14.
Following the institution of Mkhize’s lawsuit, the department accepted liability for Minenhle’s condition on the basis of medical negligence on the part of medical personnel at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital and Malukazi Clinic.
Minenhle’s leg had to be amputated because of “compartment syndrome”, which resulted in gangrene, a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a mass of body tissue dies.
Mkhize said that the medical staff had failed to provide them with adequate treatment, and as a result of this Minenhle had suffered shock and psychological trauma and was now partially disabled and permanently disfigured.
He will now have to wear a prosthesis and cannot take part in normal recreational activities.
It was submitted that Minenhle would also require further treatment in the future.
With the department having admitted liability, the issue of quantum – the amount for damages suffered – will be determined when the matter comes before the court again in March.