SA doctors perform heart surgery on wrong patient

It’s one of my worst nightmares come true: a woman is hospitalised for a respiratory infection, and ends up in theatre having heart surgery. The hospital and doctors involved have reportedly apologised. They said it was a misunderstanding, and mix-up over names. They’ve also said the patient won’t have to pay for the unnecessary surgery. It’s yet another example of iatrogenic (doctor-caused) disease, that is, unfortunately, not all that rare. MS

heartFrom SAPA – An 83-year-old woman who was being treated for a respiratory infection in the Mediclinic Kimberley underwent heart surgery when she was mistaken for another patient, Beeld reported.

Mediclinic spokeswoman Denise Coetzee told the newspaper a misunderstanding between two specialists led to Rita du Plessis being operated on, on July 25. She was in the same ward as another elderly woman, and both were patients of the same physician.

“The physician requested the surgeon to take his patient to theatre for a procedure to remove excessive moisture around the heart,” Coetzee was quoted as saying.

“Unfortunately, he got confused with their surnames, and he gave the wrong patient’s name to the surgeon over the phone.”

SAPA LOGOCoetzee told Beeld that Du Plessis was not able to give permission for the operation herself, and the surgeon had to contact her husband. During ward rounds the physician realised his mistake when he saw that Du Plessis was not there and he was told she was in surgery.

Beeld reported that the physician contacted the family to apologise, and after the heart surgery the surgeon called Du Plessis’s family to tell them the operation was a success.

According to the report, the hospital apologised for the confusion and the hospital, the surgeon, and the anaesthetist did not charge for the operation

Here’s more from Agence France-Presse:  Beeld newspaper reported that the physician realised his mistake when the patient was already in theatre undergoing the surgery.

“After being made aware of the incident by the treating doctor, the hospital and doctors engaged in constructive discussions with the patient and her family,'” hospital spokeswoman Denise Coetzee told AFP.

Mediclinic said Du Plessis had “handled the operation well,  and will not be asked to pay for the procedure.”