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By Reitumetse Mahope


Family sues Steve Biko hospital for negligence over bedsore

The family says their mother was allegedly left with an rotting bedsore on her backside at the hospital.

The family of an Eersterust woman have taken legal action against Steve Biko academic hospital after their mother was allegedly left with a rotting bedsore on her backside, said to be more than 5cm wide.

A daughter of 66-year-old Charmaine Slimmert claims her mother suffered negligence at the hospital.

Their ordeal started on 17 January after Violene Anderson said her mother was not feeling well.

“We took her to the clinic and had some X-rays done and were then referred to Steve Biko where she was admitted on January 19 and was left in the hospital’s care for almost a month.

“At the time, we were informed that my mom had a very rare spinal stroke and was receiving treatment for it as the hospital was running a series of MRI and CT scans.”

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Anderson said a week before the hospital contacted them about her mother’s condition she had been complaining about persistent pain.

“When we spoke to her on her cellphone a week before she was discharged, she complained about excruciating pain. I tried to call the hospital about the issue, but there was no answer.”

Anderson said it was frustrating that due to Covid-19 regulations she was not allowed to see her mother.

She said to get assistance from the hospital, she had to contact another facility.

“We had to get a nurse from another private hospital to assist us in communicating with Steve Biko and that’s when we were told that my mother was sleeping like a baby. According to the nurses, my mother was not complaining about any pain,” she said.

“On 17 February we were told she would be discharged. However, this could only happen if we learned how to clean a wound.”

Anderson said the family was shaken by this because they did not know what wound the hospital was referring to, as her mother had not undergone any operation, nor was she being treated for any wound.

“The nurse told us that my mother had developed a bedsore, so I went to the hospital. When they showed me the bedsore, I nearly fainted.”

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Anderson said the hospital told  her the bedsore was 5cm large, but she believed it was bigger than that.

“I took her home in pain as the hospital told us that it could not take care of my mom’s wound and that we need to take her home and care for her.”

She said she received medication for her mother’s wound.

“My mother’s health deteriorated the day when she was home. She was not eating, drinking and her stomach was running.”

She said she turned for alternative guidance on the matter after her mother was home for about five days.

“I was afraid that I might end up with a corpse at home.”

She said on 22 February her mother was readmitted to hospital when her condition became worse.

Anderson said she was afraid now that her mother was back at Steve Biko hospital.

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“The doctors are never available and the nurses are often rude. I’m very worried about her well-being since her drip was removed on 23 February after her readmission.”

Anderson said the hospital had been served court papers over the alleged negligence.

Steve Biko Academic Hospital CEO Dr Mathabo Mathebula said the patient was treated for a stroke and bedsore. She was discharged when both had stabilised.

“Bedsores become chronic and are treated on an outpatient basis if they are not septic,” Mathebula said.

She said normally bedsores developed naturally when a part of the body is under pressure.

“If a patient has a stroke and they are unable to move parts of their body freely, a pressure sore develops due to the lack of circulation.”

She said it was not common for patients to develop these sores at Steve Biko hospital as they were frequently turned and some patients were nursed in special beds with mattresses designed to relieve the pressure.

“With all the precautions taken, some patients still develop bedsores for various reasons such as nutrition and age.

“Mathebula said the hospital would admit if there was negligence, but “cannot be held accountable for natural complications of certain disease processes”.

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Mathebula said doctors communicated with family members as often as possible and sometimes daily.

“With the advent of Covid-19 this communication has suffered due to having to avoid infecting both patients and their families.

“Visiting has been limited, but families are informed of the patient’s condition telephonically. In some cases, limited visits are permitted.”

She said the hospital did not condone negligence, but in cases where there were natural complications resulting from a disease, they would assist a patient to the best of the hospital’s ability.

“Should there be negligence we will take the steps to address it and prevent it from recurring. So far, we have not had any litigation over negligence since the Covid-19 pandemic started.”

This article first appeared on Rekord and was republished with permission.

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