Doctor probed for 'botched' operations

A GP who is under investigation after patients died at his township surgery has failed to overturn his suspension.

Dr David Sello‚ from the North West town of Potchefstroom‚ went to the High Court in Pretoria after the Health Professions Council of South Africa suspended him pending an investigation of five complaints.

He claimed the committee that suspended him was biased and refused his right to legal representation.

Judge Sulet Potterill said Sello did not table any facts in support of his claims. In the meantime‚ the complaints against him were of “extreme seriousness”‚ said Potterill‚ and “the HPCSA had to act to fulfil its duty to protect the unsuspecting public”.

The HPCSA acted against Sello after an investigation in March by Health-e News was aired on the eNCA investigative programme Checkpoint.

Health-e producer Bern Maguire reported that a one-year-old girl‚ Mbalienhle Matlo‚ and a woman in her 70s‚ Paulina Koena‚ died after Sello and an unqualified assistant operated on them under general anaesthetic at his surgery in Ikageng.

Mbalienhle‚ who suffered burns when a cup of hot water fell on her‚ died during a R3 000 skin graft to her chest which a dermatologist had advised against‚ according to her parents.

Koena’s body was found on Sello’s operating table by family members who told Maguire her legs had been “slashed” during surgery to relieve fluid build-up. Appearing on Checkpoint‚ HPCSA president Dr Kgosi Letlape said Mbalienhle’s surgery should not have been attempted in Sello’s rooms.

“A skin graft is an extensive procedure. There could be blood loss‚ you could lose the skin‚ you need sterile conditions. In general‚ skin grafts would be done in a fully equipped theatre‚” he said.

He added that the toddler should not have been sent home while still unconscious.

Mother Maggie Matlou told Maguire she walked the 5km home with her daughter on her back.

Matlou and the baby’s father‚ Ntsiki Mthuzulu‚ said they consulted Sello after a dermatologist at Potchefstroom hospital told them there was nothing he could do to relieve Mbalienhle’s discomfort as she recovered from her burns.

Sello told them: “No man‚ don’t worry about this‚ he is lying. I can do this‚” said Mthuzulu.

The first attempt to operate was aborted when three anaesthetic injections — one of which was allegedly administered by an untrained assistant named Molatsi — failed to knock out the toddler.

Koena’s daughter Mathapelo told Maguire that Sello told them after her mother’s death: “You can take me to the papers‚ I don’t care.”

The Health-e producer also spoke to an Ikageng woman who said Sello paid her R500 000 in 2015 to settle a claim against him after an operation in his surgery went wrong and she had to have a fingertip amputated.

“He gave me an injection‚ but the minute he pushed the medicine inside my hand was burning. And I was screaming‚ asking him to stop but he didn’t stop‚” said the woman‚ who wanted to remain anonymous.

“My right ring finger started becoming blue but when I woke up the following day my hand was very swollen.”

Maguire confronted Sello in his surgery about the allegations but he refused to answer her questions. Molatsi and the surgery manager also refused to comment.

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