The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria
A BOX of Panado painkillers was all that an eMalahleni man received when he went to the local clinic after he was hit over the head with a heavy object.

Senso Nkonde was sent home after a nursing assistant dressed the stab wound to his arm. The treatment took about five minutes, as it was time for the clinic to close for the day. He was told to come back the next day.

Nkonde, however, died the next day due to bleeding on the brain and multiple organ failure.

His family said that if he had been send to hospital, he would have survived.

An advocate who was appointed as curator on behalf of Nkonde’s young son, who he financially supported, claimed damages in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, against the Mpumalanga MEC for health.

Judge Norman Davis found that the assistant nurse who treated him was negligent, which most probably led to the death of Nkonde.

He ordered that the MEC (in other words, the taxpayer) had to pay R440000 for loss of financial support towards the son. The money will be managed by a trust.

The court heard that Nkonde had got into a fight during the 2016 Easter weekend. He suffered a stab wound to his arm and head injuries. He was taken to the HCH Klarinet Clinic in Emalahleni for treatment.

A woman referred to as Mam Zulu testified that she was the link between the clinic and the community. She was called on March 29, 2016 by the mother of the dead man, who told her he was not well.

She saw that he had suffered injuries and had dried blood on his face, and the two of them walked to the clinic. They arrived there shortly after4pm, a few minutes after closing time.

A sister Thabethe agreed to treat him, but Zulu said that after about five minutes he emerged with his head and arm bandaged. He was also armed with a box of 10 Panado tablets.

She said he did not look well at all and he could not move his head.

According to Zulu, the practice was that if someone suffered a head injury, they had to be referred to the local hospital

Nkonde’s girlfriend, who went with him to the clinic, said the nurse who tended to him appeared to have been in a hurry, as it was closing time.

She said the sister told him to return the next day for “proper treatment”.

They returned to following day and Nkonde was said to have stood in a long queue. He was in pain and said he would return when things were quieter.

The girlfriend said he went home, where he died shortly afterwards.

Nurse Thabethe testified that Nkonde never told her about his head injury and she did not see an injury.

She said she bandaged his stab wound and told him to come back the next day, after she gave him a box of Panado.

Judge Davis said her evidence was ridden with improbabilities, the most glaring of which was the “absence of a head injury”.

He said she fell short of the necessary care and skill required, particularly by the community which she served.

The judge questioned whether Nkonde would have died if a referral to eMalahleni Hospital was substituted for sending him home with a box of Panado.

“The probabilities are, in my view, not. The blow to the head caused no immediate lapsing into a state of permanent unconsciousness.

“Instead it caused subdural bleeding, which injured the brain. This, left untreated for a further 24 hours after visiting the clinic, led to multiple organ failure,” the judge said.

He added that although it could not be said with absolute certainty that his death would have been prevented if he was immediately referred to hospital, it was more probable than not that he would have survived.