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E Cape hospital refuses to treat elephantiasis patient

Staff Reporter

A woman suffering from elephantiasis, a skin and tissue disease caused by parasitic worms, has been refused treatment at an Eastern Cape hospital.

A 37-year-old woman with elephantiasis has laid a complaint against the Livingstone hospital in Port Elizabeth after she was turned away without treatment, the Eastern Cape health department said on Monday.

“She alleges that one doctor allegedly told her to go to the casualty area where she waited for hours and realising that she was not getting any help she then broke down and cried,” said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

He said the woman claimed her she had open wounds and was in extreme pain as the result of the disease.

The woman—who visited the hospital on February 13—said the doctors only looked through her file and then told her to go to a clinic near her home just outside Port Elizabeth.

She then asked for an ambulance to take her home as she was finding it difficult to walk, but was told by ambulance personnel in casualty that she would have to pay R200 for a lift.

She said she would rather get a private taxi to take her home.

Without any treatment, the woman further alleged, her open wounds attracted flesh-eating maggots, and she decided to visit a traditional healer.

Kupelo said the department had been in contact with the hospital’s chief executive Thulani Madonsela, who was investigating the incident and in particular the doctors and nurses who had been involved. He would also be studying the woman’s medical records.

Kupelo said that, according to the woman, she had been diagnosed with elephantiasis in 2006. However she had not requested any treatment until she was admitted to Livingstone hospital in January this year.

She claims that when she was discharged, no treatment was prescribed to her. She says the pain is unbearable, she is bedridden and she cannot even use the wheelchair provided to her because, due to the disease, she cannot fit into it anymore.

Kupelo said the department was also going to take the matter further and try to help the woman with medical assistance.

Elephantiasis is a disease that affects the skin and tissue and is caused by parasitic worms.

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