Nurses showing a lack of compassion and care have led to some patient deaths and resulted in a spike in malpractice civil claims
Cape Town - Nurses showing a lack of compassion and care in hospitals have led to the death of some patients and resulted in a spike in malpractice civil claims which is often kept under wraps from the public.

This information was uncovered by Stellenbosch Professor Ethelwynn Stellenberg, of the Department of Nursing and Midwifery, who researched the reason behind the increase in malpractice cases against nurses.

Stellenberg found that poor monitoring of patients was one of the top causes in malpractices cases.

Stellenberg studied 122 completed malpractices cases at private hospitals, of which, a fifth of cases resulted in the death of patients, and 74% of the cases were settled out of court.

Stellenberg said this led to the public remaining unaware of this serious issue.

“Nursing malpractice affected the quality of life of 69% patients, with 43% requiring additional surgery and 25% left with disabilities. In total, 79% of the patients were forced to stay in hospital for a longer period of time.

“As far as nursing categories are concerned, registered nurses were involved in 87% of the cases. This should raise a red flag for our country. Not only is the state sector under pressure, but the private sector as well. We are burying our heads in the sand if we think that nursing in private hospitals is better than in state hospitals,” said Stellenberg.

Stellenberg said at the top of the list of factors that contributed to civil claims in the private hospital sector is the failure to follow guidelines, followed by a lack of knowledge, poor monitoring of patients, failure to administer prescribed medication, failure to respond to clinical signs and insufficient training.

“In one of the incidents, a patient who had a good run in the morning came in to have a small tumour in his spinal cord removed. He had weakness in one foot, but people didn’t listen to him.

“At 1pm he complained about it, at 2pm no one listened and by 5pm, he was a paraplegic,” said Stellenberg.

Stellenberg has presented her National Research Foundation (NRF) funded research findings at the International Society for Quality Health Care.

The first phase of her study, which focused on the private sector has been completed, and the second phase, is concentrating on state hospitals.


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Cape Argus