Health minister’s appeal dismissed

MASERU — The Court of Appeal of Lesotho has dismissed with costs an appeal against a High Court judgment that awarded damages to a woman whose leg was amputated 10 years ago.

‘Mammutsoe Ntseso’s leg was amputated at Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa in June 1999.

Ntseso, 37, claimed the amputation became necessary as a result of negligence by doctors at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru.

The High Court awarded her M200 000 for loss of amenities, another M200 000 for pain and suffering and M50 000 for disfigurement.

Queen Elizabeth II Hospital superintendent, Dr Piet Mcpherson, Health Minister, Dr Mphu Ramatlapeng, and Attorney-General Tsókolo Makhethe, who were the appellants, appealed against the ruling.

In a judgment delivered last Thursday, Justice of Appeal, Hein Grosskopf, dismissed the appeal with costs.

The judge said Ntseso’s leg “would have been saved if the first appellant’s doctors . . . had not acted negligently.”

“I have therefore come to the conclusion that the respondent has proved her case and that the appellants’ appeal cannot succeed,” said Justice Grosskopf.

Ntseso slipped and fell while on her way to work on 11 May 1999.

She was later taken to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Maseru where she was attended to by Dr Mapetla, a general practitioner who is now late.

The doctor later said she could not see “anything wrong” and discharged her.

She was, however, told to go for physiotherapy.

On 14 May 1999, Ntseso went back to the hospital for physiotherapy.

But she continued to experience severe pain.

A day later Ntseso sought a second opinion at Carewell Clinic in Maseru.

She was examined by Dr Bulane who expressed surprise that she was walking on her injured leg.

The doctor recommended that Ntseso receive proper care in hospital.

On 15 May 1999, Ntseso went back to the hospital but was told by a doctor in the casualty department “to go back home as he did not see what Dr Bulane was talking about.” 

Her leg was now swollen and had a “blackish colour.”

Two days later, Ntseso was seen by a specialist surgeon who recommended immediate hospitalisation.

An operation was performed on Ntseso’s leg on 20 May 1999.

She later stayed in hospital for 11 days.

When it became apparent that gangrene was setting in Ntseso was transferred to the hospital in Bloemfontein.

Her left leg was amputated on June 1, 1999.

“In my view there was clearly negligence on the part of some of the doctors who attended to the respondent at the hospital,” Justice Grosskopf said in his judgment.

The judge said the late Dr Mapetla, who was the first to examine Ntseso, had failed to examine the respondent to determine the cause of pain.

“The respondent’s situation would have been different in my view if Dr Mapetla had told respondent on 11 May 1999, as she should have done, to go for physiotherapy straight away.

“It would then have transpired on the same day that there was something seriously wrong with the respondent.

 “In my judgment Dr Mapetla’s conduct as set out above amounted to negligence in that she failed to act as a reasonably trained skilled medical practitioner would have acted in the circumstances,” said Justice Grosskopf.

He said the chain of events that led to the first operation in Maseru “revealed a cumulative absence of due care on the part of the first appellant’s doctors.”

The judge said early and decisive remedial action would have averted the amputation.

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