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Doctors were ‘unresponsive’

A reader expressed disgust at the apparent lack of humanity portrayed by doctors at a Somerset West practice, for apparent lack of urgency or eagerness to assist a man who had fallen from the roof of a building.

The reader, a witness who didn’t wish to be named, said the incident occurred when he was in his vehicle, which was parked outside the building in Caledon Street on Wednesday 21 November.

He said a man, who appeared to be working on a caged air conditioning unit on the ledge of the roof, fell after standing up and caught his leg in the barrier.

“The man fell, bouncing on the bonnet of a utility bakkie parked two cars away [from mine] on his way to the ground,” recalled the reader, one of two who rushed to the injured man’s side.

“He was shaking and convulsing, and appeared to be slipping in and out of consciousness.”

The man said a doctor, who had a practice in the same building, responded after being alerted to the incident.

He said: “She seemed reluctant to offer her assistance and, after looking at the man lying on the ground, said, ‘Daar is niks meer wat ek kan doen nie; ek het pasiënte wat wag’. She suggested we wait for paramedics, and left me and another man who had also responded to the incident to attend to the clearly injured worker.”

The reader said he and the man who also responded spent 30 minutes trying to keep the injured man still and assure him everything would be okay until the paramedics arrived and transported him to hospital.

He said he was shocked by the apparent lack of urgency and eagerness of the doctor, one of four at the practice, to assist. They are not only trained to handle such a situation, but are compelled by the Hippocratic oath they take to respond fully, the reader said.

“I was horrified, to say the least, and disgusted at what humanity had come to,” he said. “Surely more could have been done?”

Responding to the claims, a doctor from the practice said at the time all doctors there were in consultation with patients. A colleague who had been informed about the incident, in compassion, excused herself from a consultation to respond and offer help. “She responded appropriately and attended to the injured man for about 15 to 20 minutes before returning to conclude the consultation,” the doctor said. As general practitioners, he added, they didn’t have the equipment to stabilise such an injured person.

“There was nothing more that could have been done,” he said. “Paramedics specialise in handling emergency situations. There is also great risk for good Samaritans intent on helping, but end up doing the wrong thing.”

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