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Women alleges hospital amputated leg by mistake

File photo.
Written by Thabo Molelekwa

When Leah Khumalo arrived at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital, she says she thought she was due for a routine scan to discover the cause of her persistent ankle pain. Instead, the hospital amputated her leg. Now, she wants answers.

Wheel chair

According to the South African National Health Act, no health service may be provided to a patient without informed consent unless that person cannot give informed consent and no one, such as partner or parent, has been designated to provide that consent on their behalf.

Khumalo from Buhle Park east of Johannesburg had been transferred to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital from Natalspruit Hospital after being admitted to the East Rand hospital in November of 2012. She says she was transferred to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on the same night after she says she was told she needed a scan of her leg to diagnose the cause of the pain and that Natalspruit Hospital did not have the required machines.

Khumalo says she was never given a referral letter to give to doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital but was prepared for surgery when she arrived at the Soweto hospital.

She says she had no idea what she was in for when nurses wheeled her, drowsy with medication, into the operating theatre.

“They took me to the theatre without letting me or my family know,” says Khumalo, who adds that neither she nor her family ever signed a consent form for the operation. “To my surprise, when I woke up the next morning my whole left leg was amputated”.

Two years later, she says she is still looking for answers from the Department of Health.

“I want the National Department of Health to tell me that (whether) it was right for me to be transferred to another hospital without a letter, and was if it right for the hospital to take me to theatre and amputate (my leg) without my family’s consent,” she tells OurHealth. “Now I can’t walk, I can’t do anything for myself it’s all because of Natalspruit Hospital.”

No longer able to work, Khumalo says her disability grant now feeds her children. Unable to move around with ease, she also says she has gained weight following the amputation and has difficulty performing everyday tasks like going to the bathroom. What is left of her leg continues to cause her pain, she adds.

Her son Lehlohonolo Mohomane says the anguish he experienced following his mother’s amputation has taken a mental toll on him.

“Up to this day I still don’t understand under what reasons was my mother’s leg was amputated because she only had pain in her ankle,” he says. “I ended up being treated for a mental illness because of this situation.”

“ We really need the health department to intervene in this matter,” he adds.

Legally-mandated informed consent seemingly ignored[quote float=”right”]”To my surprise, when I woke up the next morning my whole left leg was amputated”

Natalspruit Hospital Quality Assurance Manager Ntombi Bhaduza has promised to look into the matter and trace the doctor who referred Khumalo to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

“This matter is very huge, so we will need to get the patient’s file and find the doctor who referred her to Baragwanath, which that will take us approximately two weeks,” says Bhaduza, who added that she believes a mistake was made in the referral process.

“The patient was not suppose to be transferred without a letter and there was no way she was going to be taken to theatre without signing consent forms,” she adds.

According to the South African National Health Act, no health service may be provided to a patient without informed consent unless that person cannot give informed consent and no one, such as partner or parent, has been designated to provide that consent on their behalf.

“Informed consent would be required at the stage of operation, meaning that the hospital would have need to make sure that they have consent before operating unless any of the exceptions in the National Health Act were present,” said Sasha Stevenson, an attorney with the public interest law organisation, Section27.

Representatives from the Gauteng Department of Health have also promised to follow-up on the matter.

“ We promise that the department will investigate the matter as soon as we receive the complaint in writing,” says Gauteng Department of Health Communication Director Lesemang Matuka. – Health-e News Service.

An edited version of this story was first published in the 24 October edition of The Star newspaper

About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98

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