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Hospital negligence costs taxpayers R1m

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Published Aug 27, 2015

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Pretoria - The MEC for Health in Mpumalanga has accepted 100 percent liability for the loss a woman and her children suffered after her husband died as a result of hospital staff’s negligence.

Now taxpayers have to fork out for the extreme negligence of Witbank Provincial Hospital doctors who refused to attend to a dying father of two who had developed septicemia after an emergency appendix operation.

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Not only were the doctors negligent in allowing Marthinus van Nikkelen Kuyper to develop septicemia, but when frantic nurses phoned some of them to immediately attend to the man, they refused.

Pretoria advocate JP Nel – an expert on medical negligence cases – who acted for the widow said this was one of the worst cases of negligence he had ever been involved in.

Van Nikkelen Kuyper’s widow, Johanna, instituted a damages claim for loss of support on behalf of herself and two young children, aged 3 and 4.

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The court ordered health authorities to pay her just over R1 million.

Van Nikkelen Kuyper was rushed to hospital on November 21, 2012, with an inflamed appendix. He was operated on but died three days later.

Following the emergency surgery, he complained of abdominal pain the next day and that he could not breathe. A nurse noted he turned blue in the face and had difficulty breathing.

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She phoned an intern doctor to tell him the patient was not well at all. The doctor refused to attend to the patient, it was stated in a medical report that formed part of the court papers. The nurse phoned another doctor on duty, whose cellphone was switched off.

A few hours later, during the night, it was noted the patient had stopped breathing and had no pulse.

Another nurse phoned another doctor to confirm that the patient had died. That doctor also refused to come to the hospital to confirm the death.

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The following morning, day staff noted that no one had yet attended to the dead man. Only some time later did a doctor arrive and declared him dead. The cause of death, following a post mortem, was stated as septicemia.

The medical report stated the hospital staff were extremely negligent following the operation, as they did not thoroughly rinse the patient’s stomach to ensure all septic fluid was removed. The antibiotics given to him were also totally inadequate to kill all the organisms that could lead to sepsis. “The treatment was clearly sub-standard and unacceptable,” the report read.

Before accepting liability virtually on the court steps, before the trial was to start, the health authority had denied liability arguing on behalf of the MEC that the man received adequate treatment.

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