Two Steve Biko Academic Hospital surgeons accused of culpable homicide appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court last week, reports The Citizen. The accused, Professor Letlhagolela Ntlhe and Dr Mpho Sandamela, have been charged in connection with the death of patient James Swart, 63, after the two surgeons removed a tumour near his kidneys, it was reported.
The tumour was apparently causing high blood pressure. Swart reportedly called his wife Lillian at 07:00 saying: “I am going in now, I will see you later”. The following day, Swart’s family was given 15 minutes to say their last goodbye to him as he lay unconscious. Lillian reportedly said her husband was given a computerised axial tomography (CAT) scan after both doctors told him a tumour on one of his adrenal glands was causing his high blood pressure.
The report says two other experts, a state pathologist and a specialist surgeon, had found that simple urine and blood tests would have shown the existence of a tumour.
Gauteng health spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department was representing the two surgeons in court. “We are supporting them because from our side, they were only doing their job. We are defending them in court and will await the outcome of the court,” Mabona is quoted in the report as saying.
Prosecutor Tumi Phongole asked Regional Magistrate AC Bekker for a postponement to allow the State time to obtain additional information. “The State has to respond to further particulars supplied by the defence,” Phongole is quoted in the report as saying.
Health Professionals Council of SA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said the matter was discussed by a committee at a preliminary inquiry meeting. “This complaint could, however, not be considered by the committee due to time constraints. It was deferred to the committee’s follow-up meeting wherein all the deferred matters will be considered.
Ntlhe and Sandamela are expected to appear again in court on 12 May.
The two doctors are continuing with their duties while the matter is argued in court, says an IoL report. Mabona said no action would be taken pending the outcome of the court case against the doctors. “Since it is a court matter we have limitations, and it is on record that we are supporting the surgeons,” he said. “Any and all further action relating to the future of the doctors in the public health sector would be determined by the outcome of the court case,” he said in the report.