Woman sues hospital after leg amputation

The woman is suing Ipswich Hospital along with three doctors. Picture: File photo
The woman is suing Ipswich Hospital along with three doctors. Picture: File photo

A WOMAN who had to have her leg amputated four months after it was injured when she fell from a bed is suing Ipswich Hospital and three doctors for $1.2 million in damages.

Kelly Smith's Supreme Court claim alleges doctors failed to diagnose and treat an infection in her left leg that worsened in 2015.

On February 7 that year, Ms Smith, 34, contacted a home doctor service after her fall. An attending GP did not give a firm diagnosis but recommended an X-ray.

Two days later Ms Smith went to the emergency department of Ipswich Hospital, where it was noted that there was leg bruising and swelling but an X-ray confirmed there was no fracture.

Her claim alleges when she attended the hospital there were clear signs of an infection.

Ms Smith's lawyer Sarah Atkinson, of Maurice Blackburn, said the hospital could have prescribed antibiotics to clear the infection and called her back for a follow-up.

"This is a shocking example of a young person who has ended up in a terrible situation,'' Ms Atkinson said.

"Who would have thought that a simple infection would result in amputation of a leg.''

Ms Smith's claim says she was seen by three GPs over the following months, without the infection being detected and treated.

Ms Smith had mental health issues and Ms Atkinson said there was a higher duty on doctors to ensure that she took their advice and they got her to go to hospital for treatment.

In April, 2015, a local GP referred Ms Smith to the hospital's emergency department, where a nurse noted the wound was grossly infected, malodorous and she seemed to have foot drop.

She was admitted to hospital, where X-rays revealed a septic secondary wound infection and possibly gangrene. She was treated with antibiotics.

Two days later Ms Smith was told her foot drop would be permanent and a below knee amputation of her left leg was recommended, but Ms Smith refused.

She was admitted to a high dependency unit before being sent home a week later.

In early June, 2015, Ms Smith told her GP she became breathless when using crutches and the next day an ultrasound revealed she had deep vein thrombosis below the knee in her left leg.

She had the leg amputated below the knee 10 days later.

West Moreton Hospital and Health Service chief executive Dr Kerrie Freeman said the hospital could not comment because the matter was before the courts.

"I know that this is a difficult time for Kelly Smith and my team are fully engaged in complaint and review processes,'' Dr Freeman said in a statement.

"If anyone has concerns, complaints or questions about healthcare, including treatment options and outcomes, we want to hear from them.''

The hospital and health service and doctors being sued are yet to file a defence to the claim.

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