Cape Town - A Kraaifontein resident whose fiancée died in hospital after a collision on the N1 near Klapmuts is holding the Health Department responsible for her death.
Carol Mostert, 45, died in the Tygerberg Hospital’s intensive-care unit on Monday.
She and her fiancé Johannes Pretorius, 42, were travelling on the N1 on June 3 when a car driven by medical intern Ilne Markwat collided with their bakkie, after she allegedly fell asleep behind the wheel due to having worked a very long shift.
Markwat died on the scene, while Mostert was critically injured.
Speaking at the Kraaifontein home they had shared, a heartbroken Pretorius questioned why Markwat did not pull off when she felt tired, but blamed the Health Department for Mostert’s death because doctors should not be allowed to work such long hours the way they currently did.
“I do blame the government, the Health Department, and I will take legal action. I will sue the state,” Pretorius said.
“I am a long-distance truck driver, if you are tired, you sleep. She was supposed to have slept when she felt tired. If she was not working those long hours, that accident would not have happened. Doctors are there to help us, not kill us,” he said.
Pretorius was also injured in the collision and spent two weeks in hospital.
He said Mostert had been on the mend after several operations, but on Friday she complained about stomach pain and her condition deteriorated.
He spoke to her briefly on Sunday and never conversed with her again after telling her he loved her. She had replied that she loved him too.
“I got the most important words out of her,” he said.
The couple, who have been together for two years, had planned to marry in October.
Pretorius also could not fully recall what had happened on the night of the accident.
He said he remembered seeing Markwat’s car coming towards his.
“I don’t have a memory of the collision, but when I woke up from being unconscious, my fiancée was bleeding.
“A witnesses at the scene asked that I should lie down. I asked them to please help her. The air bag hit her face so hard that she lost all her teeth,” he said.
Doctors advocating to have their 30-hour shift policy reviewed said they would continue pressuring the department.
Zahid Badroodien, chairperson of the Western Cape branch of the Junior Doctors Association of SA (Judasa), said the organisation remained steadfast in its call for the safe working hours for all health professionals.
He said that on April 16, Judasa had liaised with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) internship committee and it was agreed that the matter would be discussed.
He said no further communication was received from the HPCSA.
“There have also been no concrete suggestions or consideration made thus far.”
In February, the Western Cape Health Department was consulted, but the response was that the regulation of hours was a national department issue.
“We are currently in the process of engaging with them,” Badroodien said.
National Health Department spokesperson Joe Mail said it was “acknowledging doctors are working long hours”.
He said the department was looking at reviewing its policy.