News | South Africa | Courts
In 2017, the Northern Cape High Court ruled that the department of health would have to pay up after a Kimberley man admitted to hospital with a gangrenous toe ended up losing his leg due to medical negligence.
But three years later the man died – and the question of how much the department has to fork out is still before the courts.
It all started with an ingrown toenail, which Patrick Erasmus, then 71, had removed in November 2012 after it became infected.
A week after the procedure, his doctor diagnosed him with gangrene and sent him to Kimberley Hospital, where a specialist surgeon instructed his toe be amputated within 48 hours.
But after a series of missteps by hospital staff – as the court found – this only took place a month later.
By then, the infection had spread and surgeons had to amputate Erasmus’ leg above the knee, leaving him in a wheelchair.
In 2014, Erasmus launched a R2 million damages claim against the health MEC, currently Mase Manopole, and against his doctor.
He and his doctor settled out of court, but the case against the MEC is still ongoing.
In 2017, the court delivered its ruling on the issue of liability.
It found Erasmus had been the victim of negligence and ordered the MEC to compensate him for the damages he had suffered.
The issue of quantum, however, is still before the court. Erasmus had, in the interim, died, but his family is battling
the case on his behalf with the department.
Last year, the MEC’s lawyers brought a court application to compel the family to hand over the confidential settlement agreement between Erasmus and his doctor.
This, they argued, was so they could establish how much compensation he had already received. But in a ruling this month, the court found this had no bearing on the matter at hand.
It said Erasmus’ case against his doctor and that against the MEC were based on separate sets of facts.
The first instance concerned the treatment he received for an infected ingrown toenail.
“The claim against the [MEC] stems from the breach of an agreement, alternatively delict by way of the employees of Kimberley Hospital’s negligent treatment of the [Erasmus’] gangrenous left toe,” read the judgment.
The application was dismissed and the trial continues on the amount of damages.
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