Govt Ordered to Pay for Doctor’s Blunder

A DOUBLE dose of penicillin that a Cuban military doctor administered to a patient with an allergy for the antibiotic medication is set to cost the Namibian government N$1,7 million.

The hefty price of the wrongly administered penicillin is the result of a High Court case in which Acting Judge Kobus Miller has now ordered the minister of defence to pay N$1,73 million in compensation to a former employee of the Ministry of Defence.

The former employee, Kutwano Vennitah Milunga, became seriously ill and spent almost two months in hospital after a Cuban doctor employed by the ministry of defence gave her two doses of penicillin in October 2007.

Due to an allergy to penicillin, Milunga had a severe reaction to the antibiotic medication and has been left permanently scarred, Acting Judge Miller noted in the judgement in which he made the damages award to Milunga.

With the government lawyer representing the minister having conceded that the minister was liable to compensate Milunga for the damage she suffered as a result of the medication given to her, Acting Judge Miller ruled that she should be paid N$1,2 for general damages, N$523 671 for loss of earnings, and N$10 527 for past medical costs.

Milunga went to see the Cuban doctor employed by the defence ministry on 11 October 2007 to seek treatment for a sore throat. The doctor administered penicillin to her, but an allergic reaction set in the next morning, when Milunga’s eyes became swollen, blisters started to form on her lips and she started to develop a fever, Acting Judge Miller recounted.

The medication mistake was compounded when she went to see the same doctor again and was given another, more powerful dose of penicillin.

The allergic reaction worsened after that. Blisters developed all over Milunga’s body and her condition deteriorated to such an extent that she was admitted to a hospital on 15 October 2007. When she was discharged after seven and a half weeks in hospital, she had to learn how to walk again and was left with scars on her face and body.

She is also now suffering from a permanent eye condition that has left her with poor eyesight, constant dry eyes, and scarring of her corneas. Milunga has undergone eye surgery and would have to have surgery on her eyes again in the future, the court was told.

Milunga was in her thirties, healthy, and leading an active life before she received the wrong medication, the judge noted. As a result of her medical condition, she was later found unfit to work and discharged from her employment with the defence ministry on medical grounds.

“In sum it is apparent that [Milunga] suffered severely and will continue to do so for the remainder of her natural life,” Acting Judge Miller said in his judgement.

Milunga claimed N$1,5 million in general damages for pain, suffering and disfigurement from the defence minister. The minister conceded that Milunga was entitled to be compensated for her past medical expenses, loss of earnings, and general damages, but disputed that she was entitled to compensation of N$1,5 million for general damages.

Having considered the evidence before him, it was his view that an amount of N$1,2 million to compensate her for the general damages she suffered would be appropriate, Acting Judge Miller stated.

The judge also ordered the defence minister to pay Milunga’s legal costs and the costs of the two medical doctors who testified in support of her claim.

Milunga was represented by Zagrys Grobler. Government lawyer Steven Nkiwane represented the minister.

Source : The Namibian