€70,000 compensation for woman left paralyzed by MRSA at St. Luke's Hospital

The court observed that the woman was the responsibility of the Chief Medical Officer, who was obliged to ensure that the way the hospital was maintained did not do more damage to patients’ health

(File Photo)
(File Photo)

A woman who was left paraplegic after contracting the MRSA virus at a government hospital has been awarded nearly €70,000 in compensation.

Abdelkrim and Carmela Bouharis sued the Director General (Health Care Services) and the Chief Government Medical Officer in the First Hall of the Civil Court after Carmela Bouharis contracted MRSA at St. Luke’s Hospital in February 2007.

Mr. Justice Joseph R. Micallef, presiding the case, observed how on 9 February 2007, the woman had been referred to the emergency department at Mater Dei Hospital as she was suffering from nausea, dizziness and dehydration. She was 48 at the time.

She had been placed on a drip and a dark, round bruise had formed around the needle insertion site. A yellowish liquid had started to accumulate in the area also. 

On 24 February 2007, the woman had tried to get out of bed to go shower but her legs gave way. Upon falling she had seen a yellowish liquid come out of her arm when she fell. She was found to have been infected with the MRSA superbug and the infection had spread to her spine.

Doctors operated on her that same day but it was found that the damage had established itself. Traces of thrombosis were found in one of her legs and she ended up spending a month in bed unable to move. The woman was told she would spend the rest of her life suffering from incontinence, needing a walking frame and being unable to go up and down steps unaided.

The court noted that as soon as the woman was hospitalised a contractual relationship came into existence between her and the Chief Medical Officer, who was entrusted with the responsibility of seeing that the hospital was maintained in such a way as not to cause more damage to a patent’s health when admitted.

Mr. Justice Micallef said that the evidence had achieved the level of proof required in civil proceedings to show that the plaintiff had been infected by the MRSA microbes in hospital, although not necessarily at the time when the infection became evident, and that the hospital had failed to take the necessary precautions to control the spread of the microbe. It had also failed to give the plaintiff the required treatment at the right time to prevent her condition from deteriorating as soon as her symptoms emerged. This all leads the court to the understanding that the plaintiffs showed sufficiently that the hospital failed to abide by its contractual obligations with the plaintiff as a patient

It was down to the Chief Government Medical Officer to use the wisdom, prudence and attention required in the carrying out of his contractual obligations, said the court. 

The woman was awarded €69,561.65 by way of damages.

Lawyers David Camilleri and Joseph Gatt appeared for the plaintiff, while lawyers Antoine Agius and Susan Sciberras were defence counsel.

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