Appalled East Cape health department boss orders investigation
After begging nurses for days to change his surgical dressings, a horrified patient at Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital woke up yesterday to find his massive leg wound covered in maggots. Clint Morris, 40, was seriously injured in a scooter accident a month ago and has undergone multiple surgeries on both legs.
But nothing could have prepared him for the shock of seeing the maggot-infested wound after nurses had earlier told him to change his dressings himself.
Incredulous Eastern Cape Department of Health superintendent-general Dr Thobile Mbengashe intervened after being informed of what had happened and seeing pictures of the wound.
He said a full investigation would be carried out.
Morris said yesterday: “I felt weird. I looked down and saw these things crawling around my wounds.”
After he pointed it out to the nurses in Ward 2A, they still made him wait for 90 minutes before coming to clean his wound.
“What could I do? I sat there watching these white little maggots crawling around my wounds,” Morris said.
“I felt sick. I almost passed out from shock.”
Morris said since being admitted to Ward 2A on December 13, his dressings had only been changed once – on December 23 – after his visitors had asked the medical superintendent’s office to intervene.
“The nurses told me they were understaffed and I should do it myself,” he said.
One of Morris’s legs was almost ripped off and the other broken in a scooter accident on December 2.
Morris, who lives and works at The Willows, where he is employed as a handyman, was riding his scooter in Marine Drive when another vehicle drove into him.
“I remember trying to stand up after the accident and falling. I wasn’t feeling any pain. My legs were not working,” he said.
He was taken to theatre just before 1am the next day.
“The doctors wanted to amputate my foot, but I am still holding on to it,” he said.
Morris has since had seven surgeries as doctors desperately try to save his legs.
He has had some muscle and skin grafts but still needs further surgery.
He has had pins and screws put in one leg and is due for a last operation tomorrow.
Morris can only walk a little on crutches and the other leg – which had to be reassembled by surgeons – is encased in a steel cage and is the one where the wound became infested with maggots.
Mbengashe ordered an immediate investigation after being notified.
“It is not right for patients to [be told they must] change their own dressings.
“There should be no such treatment of patients,” he said. “I will ask the [chief executive] of Livingstone to investigate and provide me with information.”
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo – speaking on behalf of Livingstone Hospital – said angrily: “It is totally unacceptable that a patient has been allowed to develop such complications in our care.
“Dr Mbengashe has directed the hospital CEO to immediately launch an investigation and also ensure the patient receives the best quality of care.”
Morris said he had only good things to say about the doctors and nurses at Livingstone’s orthopaedics department and the surgeons at Provincial Hospital where his skin and muscle grafts were done. “I was raving about all of them,” he said. His trouble only started after he was admitted to Ward 2A, the surgical ward at Livingstone Hospital.
Brian Paddey, from the Amputee Support Group, said he had visited Morris last week.
“The smell from his wound was nauseating,” Paddey said. “I also asked the nurses to change his bandages and they told me that he must do it himself.
“How is he supposed to do it? His leg is in a steel cage.
“There were two doctors there and they told me the same thing. I am appalled.
“Previously, I was so impressed with the doctors and nurses in the orthopaedic ward. They were just unbelievable. He received such good care there.
“The care in this ward, however, left me completely heartbroken,” Paddey said.
“This man has no family here to help him. His mom is in the UK and she is panicking. “How cruel can you be?” DA spokeswoman for health Celeste Barker said she was appalled.
“We call for the strongest possible action and for disciplinary steps to be taken against every single person who denied Morris care,” she said.
“Why did he have to suffer for so many days without his dressing being changed?
“It is absolutely inhumane.”