Compensation a disability caused after admitted to hospital for surgery

Case Notes investigated by the Commissioner for Health

The complaint

A patient who underwent surgery because of an incarcerated parastomal hernia, stated that he sustained a disability following the surgery. The surgery had no relation to the disability sustained. After a series of medical examinations, a Consultant Neurologist at Mater Dei Hospital concluded that the patient sustained from a 50% disability, which definitely he was not suffering from on admission.

The complainant, through his legal advisor, stated that since he became a disabled and dependent person, and went through various expenses was requesting a compensation. His request was declined. The complainant asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the case.

Facts and findings

In April 2010, the complainant was admitted to Mater Dei Hospital suffering from an incarcerated parastomal hernia. The following day he was operated and his condition was stable. Following the surgical intervention he was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ITU). Following a ‘stormy post-operative’ recovery he was transferred to his ward.
Whilst recovering, his wife noticed that he was suffering from a weakness in his left upper limb. This was reported to the duty neurologist who diagnosed the patient with a possible cerebral infarction which caused a profound weakness of the whole left upper limb. The patient was discharged from hospital in May 2010.

In July 2010, the patient was examined by a Consultant Neurologist, and was diagnosed with a left post ganglionic brachial plexus lesion.

The complainant underwent various neurological tests in the following months and little improvement was noticed. In November 2011, whilst under examination, it was noticed that the patient had Grade 4 weakness of the left triceps, a complete wrist and finger drop and all the intrinsic muscles of the left hand.

The Neurologist Consultant declared that the lesion he was suffering from, was not related to the initial surgical problem, but it may have occurred, either sometime during the surgical intervention, or whilst the patient was under intensive care or whilst he was being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. He also declared that by analogy, although there wasn’t a specific figure for a complete lesion of the lower trunds of the brachial plexus, the patient had a 50% permanent disability.

Conclusions and recommendations

The Commissioner for Health, accepted to investigate the case and after communicating the complaint with the Department for Health, the Commissioner was informed that the Chief Medical Officer was collecting the information about the case, in order to enter into settlement with the patient.

Outcome

The Department for Health, without admitting to any liability whatsoever for the damages alleged by the patient, accepted to compensate the patient. After negotiating the initial offer, the patient accepted the compensation offered.

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