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Pretoria - The MEC for Health in Limpopo is liable for the damages suffered by a Mokopane (Potgietersrus) man who went to hospital with a stab wound to his stomach, but the wound went septic because of the negligence of the staff at a provincial hospital.
To make matters worse, it was only later discovered that a surgical needle was forgotten in his stomach during surgery on him.
No amount has been stated yet, but André Potgieter is claiming thousands from the health authorities, as well as from a doctor.
Pretoria High Court Judge Hans Fabricius ruled that the health authorities as well as the doctor be held liable for the damages Potgieter could prove he had suffered.
This was in connection with the treatment he had received at the Mokopane Hospital between April 15 2008 to April 30, 2008.
Potgieter was stabbed in the stomach, near his navel, on March 31, 2008. A doctor who saw him diagnosed a non-penetrating injury to the abdominal wall. The doctor gave him a tetanus injection and antibiotics.
He was sent home, but the wound became red and inflamed. A doctor cleaned the wound and again gave him antibiotics.
The wound still did not improve and he went back to hospital with abdominal pain and nausea. The wound remained inflamed and produced watery fluid. A doctor told Potgieter to return to the hospital six days later and sent him home without any medication.
Potgieter said the wound worsened and became more inflamed. He was eventually admitted to the hospital and placed on intravenous antibiotics. He was told he had to undergo an emergency laparotomy in order to save his life.
The doctor then also removed slough, but according to him the wound was never explored or cleaned and no samples were taken of the watery substance, or pus, which was coming out of the wound. The infection spread to his groin area - despite numerous visits by him to the hospital for wound care.
Potgieter said he woke up on June 16, 2008, and his right shoulder and arm were paralysed. This condition remained for a year, whereafter the motor function gradually returned. He has, however, been permanently left with less power in all the muscles in his right arm and shoulder.
An expert testified that this complication was related to the deficient management of his wound and that he would not have suffered this had the sepsis been properly treated at the hospital.
An abscess which had developed in the wound at one stage burst open and a general practitioner to which Potgieter went in desperation “observed what appeared to be a shiny object” in the abscess area of the wound.
The doctor then identified it as being a surgical needle which had been left behind in the wound. It was about 8cm in length and he removed it. The doctor who treated Potgieter at the Mokopane Hospital denied that he had left it in the wound earlier.
But according to Potgieter, the hospital staff and the doctor were negligent as they did not, from the outset, treat the wound properly so that it did not become infected.
He said the medication he had received also aggravated the septic process.
The court was also told that the needle was left behind when the doctor did the laparotomy, which later proved to be totally unnecessary.
Potgieter also developed kidney stones, which the expert told the court were due to his general poor health “resulting from his treatment at the hospital”.
The hospital and doctor, in defending the claim, said the needle found in Potgieter wasn’t used by their hospital and that all their needles were accounted for.
Judge Fabricius remarked on the evidence of the medical expert who said if the wound had been properly cleaned and treated from the start, it would not have become septic.