Patient to get R1.3m for boiling bath

Compensation awarded to burn victim from Seshego hospital. Picture: File

Compensation awarded to burn victim from Seshego hospital. Picture: File

Published Mar 20, 2024


A bath with boiling water, leaving a patient with burn marks across his body, will cost the taxpayer nearly R1.3 million after the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane ruled that the Health MEC of that province was responsible for the patient’s damages.

Thabang Lebogo turned to court after suffering burns across his body. While he could not exactly recall what had happened to him, the court found that it was highly probable that the nursing staff had warmed water in an urn and bathed him with it.

He was admitted to the Seshego Hospital in November 2014 and given a sedative, which made him fall asleep. When he woke up, Lebogo found that big parts of his body was covered in bandages.

While he had no recollection of how it occurred, the nursing staff at the hospital claimed that he woke up in the early hours of the morning and took a shower - under boiling water - himself.

This version was, however, rejected by the court.

Lebogo’s nightmare ordeal started when he was admitted to hospital following vomiting and severe abdominal pain.

He was given an injection to sedate him, which caused him to sleep. He woke up the next morning with second degree burn wounds across his body and no idea how it happened.

His mother testified that the following morning, even before visiting hours, she received a call from a nurse at the hospital who told her to come to the hospital.

She was told her son got burnt and was injured. She found him in another ward as the previous day and he was covered in bandages. He also had a cut above his left eye and also on his chin. His hands, chest and waist area, going down to his buttocks, were covered in bandages, as well as one of his legs.

Counsel for the health authorities, during the mother’s questioning in court, told her that her son’s sedation wore off earlier than expected. According to the nursing staff her woke up at around three in the morning and went to the bathroom to take a shower. He fainted in the shower and burned himself.

The mother denied this and said she knew that there was no hot water at the hospital. And that the staff used urns to heat up the water to wash the patients with.

Lebogo testified that after he received the sedative, he fell asleep and could not remember anything. When he regained his consciousness, he found that he was covered in bandages.

He testified that his injuries were so bad that he had to take liquid foods through a syringe whilst at hospital. He is still suffering from his injuries, he said.

Lebogo testified that there was no warm water at the hospital as the staff, after his injuries, continued to bathe him from water warmed in an urn and poured into a basin.

A nurse testified that Lebogo woke up and went to the bathroom as he wanted to take a shower. He opened the hot water and got burned on both his hands, lower back and left leg.

She said that they became aware of the incident when they heard him screaming and they ran to his aid.

According to the nurse they found him standing in the bathtub, but he slipped and fell when they tried to help him out. She also said the hospital did have warm water that day and denied that the nurses ever warmed water for bathing purposes in an urn.

Judge Marisa Naude-Odendaal said in her view the hospital’s version that Lebogo got out of bed in the early hours of the morning, walked to the bathroom and wanted to take a shower and subsequently changed the bath tap to shower mode before opening a tap of hot water over himself, is improbable and not true.

She said it is highly improbable that he would have remained standing in the bath under the extremely hot water and caused himself to burn. “If one considers where the burn wounds are situated, it does not support the Defendant's version that the Plaintiff got burned under a shower - which later transpired to be a half-height shower head.”

The judge said he had to stand under the boiling hot water for a considerable long time to sustain the degree of burn wounds, at the respective places on his body as he did.

The court concluded the staff were negligent in bathing him in boiling water.

Pretoria News

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