The Gauteng Health MEC has been ordered to pay 100% of the damages suffered by a 48-year-old Heidelberg woman, who was left with chronic pain after a white plastic object was left in her abdomen during an operation.
Acting Judge Tanya Brenner ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that medical doctors and nursing staff at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital had been negligent by not examining Marjorie Venter’s wound for foreign objects during a 2013 hysterectomy operation and permitting the object to remain in her. Venter, the mother of two, instituted a damages claim of more than R900 000 against the MEC as a result of her ordeal.
The actual amount of damages she must received will only be determined at a later stage. She suffered from chronic abdominal and pelvic pain, her wound burst open and became sceptic and would not heal normally. Venter repeatedly went back to the Baragwanath and Heidelberg hospitals, complaining of severe pain and nausea, but was merely given pain medication and only underwent a further surgical procedure eight months later during which a cyst and a “white plastic foreign body” were removed.
Her chronic pain continued even after the second procedure and she will in future have to undergo further treatment, including a hernia repair. Venter testified that she was told that an object had been found, but was never told what it was.
A specialist general surgeon, Dr Bastiaan Pienaar, testified that the foreign object must have been significant in size to have warranted a further procedure. He said the presence of a foreign object in any cavity increased the risk for infection, could cause irritation, inflammation, wound sepsis, slow healing and pain in the lower abdomen. A cyst could also develop around the foreign body.
Pienaar was of the view that it was most likely that the foreign body was left inside Venter’s body after the hysterectomy, because it would have been noticed if it was already there from previous surgery. The MEC’s expert’s view was that the cause of Venter’s pain and complications were previous weight loss bypass surgery and not the foreign body. Venter said she never had bypass surgery, although she previously underwent successful colon surgery without complications.