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Durban - Minenhle Mkhize was five when he jumped out of a tree, and broke his left ankle.
Now, aged 10, he limps along with a prosthesis, the result of having his leg amputated because of medical negligence at Prince Mshiyeni Hospital and the Malukazi Clinic in Umlazi.
On Monday, his mother, Thokozani Mkhize, assisted by her lawyer Michael Friedman, will be in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, suing the provincial minister of health for R11.5 million.
While the minister has admitted liability, the fight in court is over how much compensation Minenhle is entitled to for past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings and general damages.
According to papers filed with the court, Mkhize took her son to Prince Mshiyeni Hospital on April 30, 2008, the day after he sustained the injury.
He was treated as an outpatient and a plaster cast, from below the knee and including the foot, was applied.
The next day, Minenhle complained of excessive pain from inside the cast. His mother took him back to hospital but was advised that everything was in order and he should come back in three weeks for further assessment.
The following day, the little boy was still complaining and his mother took him back to the hospital again. She was turned away by nurses who said her son was not entitled to see a doctor.
On May 5, Mkhize took her son to the local clinic where he was examined and she was advised that all was well.
But, on May 8, Minenhle could not move his toes and they were turning black. He and his mother went back to the clinic where, finally, the plaster cast was removed. He was admitted to hospital and, the following day, Mhkize was told the blood supply to his leg had been blocked. His leg was amputated below the knee a few days later.
Mkhize alleges the sole cause of the amputation was negligence by staff at the hospital and clinic.
“We should not have been turned away at the hospital. He should have been referred to a doctor so that the leg and plaster cast could be examined.
“Again, at the clinic, given the history of persistent pain, the doctor should have removed the plaster cast and examined the leg,” Mkhize says.
Instead, she alleges, medical and nursing staff at the hospital and clinic failed to diagnose the onset of compartment syndrome and gangrene.
According to the court papers, Minenhle suffered shock and psychological distress and he will be partly disabled and will have to use a prosthesis.
Among the experts who will testify are educational and industrial psychologists, prosthesis experts and occupational therapists.
The minister has accepted reports from orthopedic and plastic surgeons.
His mother told The Mercury that Minenhle had become irritable and sensitive after the amputation.
“He plays well with other children, but they tease him about his leg and he gets angry. He can’t play sport.”
In January, Friedman approached the court for Mkhize and successfully applied for an order that the minister make an interim payment to Mkhize of almost R179 000 for past medical expenses.
The minister has not paid up and this issue is expected to be raised in court on Monday.