Judge Dawie Fourie rejected the Health MEC’s contention that the police were to blame for EM Maphosa’s injuries and that it had not been possible to treat him properly due to overcrowding and lack of resources.
Maphosa was taken to Musina Hospital in March 2010, after his ankle was badly fractured during a police assault. He was transferred to Tshilidzini Hospital and then back to Musina without his ankle being operated on.
Then he was discharged with part of the wound still open and unable to walk without crutches. He was only admitted to Polokwane Hospital about four months later. Then he had to wait another two weeks because of a “backlog” and was transferred to a third state hospital where he had surgery on his ankle for the first time.
An orthopaedic surgeon testified that Maphosa’s injury could become a life-threatening condition if it was not properly treated within a short time-frame. Maphosa should have had an operation the same day, not three months later, and now had a second-hand ankle, he added.
He said a waiting period of about four months amounted to severe negligence. He also pointed out that the surgery resulted in severe post-traumatic osteoarthritis in the ankle, which became non-functional and needed immediate and urgent further surgery.
Thereafter Maphosa has to wear a special brace for the rest of his life. Judge Fourie said there was no doubt the consequences he suffered and those he will endure in future, such as loss of the amenities of life, pain, suffering, loss of earnings, further hospital and medical treatment and disability, should have been foreseeable by the medical staff.
The department’s attempt to blame the system was not supported by evidence and it could not be accepted that the hospital staff were unable to treat him timeously because of financial constraints, he added.
He ruled that the Health MEC was 100% liable for damages, the amount of which will be determined at a later stage.