South Africa: 'Walk in Healthy and Get Wheeled Out Sick'

26 September 2023

An investigation has been launched into the Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha after one patient died and five others have been treated for infections after undoing surgeries.

An otherwise healthy 26-year-old Andiswa Vulani lost her life in June this year after an appendicitis operation turned septic.

Since then, at least five more people have come forward, claiming to have had similar experiences.

Vulani was admitted to Livingstone on 22 March after complaining of intense stomach pains. She was treated for appendicitis and underwent an operation.

She had to remain in hospital for the following month after her wound became septic.

After months of intense pain, Vulani succumbed to her wounds on Saturday, 4 June at her home in the township of Wells Estate.

But Vulani's plight was not an isolated incident.

Tyler Orien, 18, who suffers from autism, was also operated at Livingstone Hospital for appendicitis eight months ago. He returned home partially sighted, battling septicaemia and tuberculosis.

And now his mother, Natasha Orien, finds herself playing the role of his full-time carer.

This has prompted the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate.

The commission's Eastern Cape manager, Dr Eileen Carter, said it had taken note of the complaints emanating from treatment received by patients at Livingstone Hospital and registered an investigation.

"The matter will now be addressed through its gazetted complaints handling procedures, which includes urgently engaging with the Department of Health within the province," she said.

Among the new complainants is Rudi Lohmann, who entered Livingstone Hospital for an appendix operation -- only to be wheeled out with septicaemia.

"My ordeal started about three years ago," Lohmann said.

"I worked away a lot and started to complain of lower back pains.

"When I received the CT scan... they could see that I had an inflamed appendix and I was referred to a specialist."

Lohmann said the specialist, along with other doctors at Livingstone, then agreed that the appendix be removed and surgery had to be performed.

"I had got home following surgery, a week or two had passed and I was supposed to be back at work. However, I started changing colour and became extremely yellow along with a lot of weight loss and could hardly hold food down."

Lohmann said he tried to go back to work but was turned away by his employer and told he needed to see a doctor before returning.

"I woke up in ICU three days later unaware of anything that had happened to me in terms of surgery and had staples on my stomach."

Lohmann said he now suffers from permanent reflux disease and peptic ulcers.

Eastern Cape health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said that as appendicitis was an infection of the bowel, "it can be that patients develop septicaemia".

"We have performed several such operations between the two cited procedures without necessarily having complications of septicaemia.

"Each case has to be investigated and understood on its merits and likely unique set of circumstances."

Asked about the other complaints, Kupelo said he was not at liberty to divulge patients' personal information.


AllAfrica publishes around 500 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.