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Amputee awaits compensation after court orders DoH to pay for negligence

A 48-year-old Pietermaritzburg man has been waiting two months for the KZN Department of Health to compensate him for medical negligence after an apparent misdiagnosis led to the removal of part of his right leg and then to severe septicaemia and a further amputation.

Deon Pillay, formerly a successful businessman, is living in a sparsely furnished room struggling to take care of himself after a government hospital amputated most of his right leg in 2011, reports IoL.

In May, the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) ordered the department to pay him R130,000 for treatment, R93,531 for occupational therapy and R38,076 for physiotherapy, with Judge Piet Koen giving the department 30 days to pay.

But “I have not received a cent,” said Pillay. ”I am barely surviving on my disability grant and cannot even afford a caregiver.”

He said in 2011, he had gastric flu and then shortness of breath, and was referred to a Pietermaritzburg cardiologist who diagnosed mild dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle.

Three days later, he had pain in his ankle and another doctor diagnosed and treated him for a sciatic nerve problem.

“He said the nerve from my spine, which runs down the back of my right leg, had caused the pain and I should see a physiotherapist. But after five days of physiotherapy, the pain worsened and the paramedics took me to hospital on 2 August (2011).

“A nurse gave me an injection and after nine hours of waiting for the doctor, I underwent an ultrasound and was told I had deep vein thrombosis.

“I was transferred to the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban where they examined my leg and said I needed to go to theatre. The doctor said they had to cut my leg on both sides and check the muscle and tissue. If the muscle and tissue were dead, they would have to amputate my leg.

“I panicked and wanted a second opinion. The doctor said I could leave the hospital but if I dropped dead, I could not blame them. I signed the consent for the procedure and prayed. After the surgery, part of my leg was missing.

“For several days, I was given pain injections. The bandages were not opened or checked. The nurses said the doctor advised they must leave the bandaging. While there, I was told I would go back to theatre for the stump to be stitched.

“On the morning I was due to go to theatre, I had a fever so it was cancelled. Over the next few days, I felt uncomfortable and arranged to go to a private hospital in Pietermaritzburg. I took a forced discharge.

“The surgeon told me I had severe sepsis and septicaemia. I underwent surgery again and my leg was further amputated above my knee. During my recovery, my business nosedived.”

It closed in 2012.

“I had no income, savings, or investments. We rented a flat and I struggled to support my family. My wife and I divorced and my daughter lives with her.”

In 2014, a friend suggested legal action.

“A summons was issued to the department for R10.8m for medical negligence but after no progress, a second attorney, in 2016, amended the summons to about R14m and the case started moving. In October 2018, a merit trial was expected to start in the KZN High Court, but the department’s legal representatives asked for a postponement. The merit trial was then set for February 2020. During that trial, the department’s legal representative conceded liability.”

He said various experts, including an occupational therapist, physiotherapist and an orthopaedic surgeon, examined him and provided medical reports on the damages, how much future treatment he would need, the duration, and costs.

In October 2021, his attorney did an interim payment application. It showed Pillay’s loss of past and future income, past medical expenses, future medical expenses, and general damages, amounting to more than R9m.

The matter was to be heard in the High Court in May 2022.

“On the day, the department’s legal representative said they had not received the forensic accountant’s reports on my loss of income. The judge ordered that some of the costs be paid. He also issued directives for both the department and us to supply information to the court. Once the court receives feedback on the directives then a quantum trial date will be set.

“The department has not honoured the ruling of compensating me R130,000. My attorney has made an application for a warrant of execution in the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg).”

Ntokozo Maphisa, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health, said: “We are concerned, and have asked for a report from our legal services unit to ascertain the cause of the delay, and to see how its finalisation can be expedited.”


IOL article – ‘I lost everything’: Amputee takes on KZN Health following operation (Open access)


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KZN High Court rejects ‘payment in kind’ for medical negligence




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