'Outlier' plastic surgeon gets on hospital's tits


A Durban hospital has decided to cut the cord with a plastic surgeon whose past, it would seem, has finally caught up with him. But scratching below the surface has revealed that while Dr Leon Dumas may be cavalier at times, he has also done what few doctors do – turn against the hospital at which he practises, bringing medical negligence law suits against the medical institution.

Axed: Dr Leon Dumas

The news that Dr Leon Dumas has been axed by Life Entabeni Hospital in Glenwood, Durban, after 22 years of residency, has rocked the local surgeon network – and been welcomed by his peers.

Dumas is said to have always had a credit-card machine close to hand and that he once accepted the ring of an elderly woman who had died – which was all her bereaved husband (now also deceased) owned that was of value at the time – in part payment for muchneeded facial surgery after being disfigured by a cancer operation. The couple’s children confirmed the incident to Noseweek.

Dumas is known for his high fees – confirmed by the regulatory body the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). A source with direct knowledge said one client was billed R138,000 for a procedure that should have cost just R8,000.

Dumas has also fallen out with most of his colleagues, being one of just four surgeons ever to be expelled from the voluntary Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons of Southern Africa (Aprassa) in its 66-year history. Offering peer-review, support, lobbying and guidelines, it currently represents 169 members.

Dr Chris Snijman

The association – from which he was expelled in 2004 – accused him of “tariffsmanship” which essentially means: “overcharging; the abuse and misuse of inappropriate procedure codes; doctoring of medical documentation; blatant lying; and dishonesty regarding procedures charged for and procedures not being performed,” said a statement from the association’s former president and spokesperson Dr Chris Snijman.

An example of tariffsmanship is when a surgeon books in a patient under a certain code to have, say, a hernia removed but will in fact do a tummy tuck in order to get the medical aid scheme to cover the cost.

Dumas also fell out with the association because he was the first to advertise his services online – a taboo in the old boys’ club at the time.

The December 2018 incident – rumoured to be the cause of his expulsion by the hospital – was that Dumas performed “corrective” surgery on a patient who had earlier undergone some form of plastic surgery under his care. Except that he did the procedure in his rooms. Although Dumas underplayed the incident, it was not as inconsequential as he claims as he had an anaesthetist, a nursing sister and theatre equipment on hand.

A source, who described Dumas an “outlier” and “not one of us” said Dumas undertook a corrective abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) which Dumas denied and technically couldn’t admit to due to patient confidentiality.

Life Entabeni Hospital

Hospital management caught wind of it when it was noticed that pethidine had “gone missing” from its stores. On reviewing CCTV footage, they saw what they believed to be theatre equipment, being wheeled to Dumas’s rooms. Dumas said that he, the nursing sister and the anaesthetist were all cleared after an internal hearing.

The equipment he said, was his own and the pethidine had been removed correctly, but was “just not properly documented”. This story was confirmed by his anaesthetist Andrew Burford.

The hospital would not confirm the details but it did confirm that this was not the reason they terminated Dumas’s contract.

Greg Swale

Hospital manager Greg Swale said in a letter vetted by the company attorneys: “Life Entabeni Hospital confirms that it notified Dr Dumas of the termination of his admission rights to the Hospital and his lease of the Hospital’s consulting rooms on 31 January 2019. The reasons for the termination by Life Entabeni Hospital are confidential”.

Swale also said Dumas was not involved in any legal matter involving the hospital.

So why, after 22 years, has he been booted out in such a crass manner?

Dumas could find no reasons, he said, calling the “pethidine incident” an attempt at “smoke and mirrors” to besmirch his name.

“I was just told my tenure at the hospital was being terminated,” he said.

What has now transpired is that he is a witness against the hospital in a serious medical malpractice suit which includes a claim that the hospital’s theatre equipment is malfunctioning.

Dumas sits on a panel of experts for the Durban Central law firm Berkowitz Cohen Wartski, which has an active medical negligence law unit led by Barry McCulloch. He confirmed that Dumas was a witness in more than one matter pending against the hospital, with a particularly large matter being prepared to be heard in court.

Barry McCulloch

“The suit involves our client who received extensive diathermy burns on his elbow from the equipment held in the hospital. Diathermy is used for such procedures as cauterizing, usually used to stop bleeding. This happened while our client was undergoing surgery with two doctors present,” said McCulloch.

Diathermy is the use of localised heating of soft tissues as a form of physical therapy and in surgical procedures. McCulloch said they had consulted Dumas – who sits on the law firms’s expert panel – and who treated the patient afterwards. “His contention is that in the past there were problems with this same equipment.”

He said his client, a mechanic, had not regained full use of his arm and needed to hire extra personnel. While refusing to reveal the size of the claim, one source said the quantum being sought was “significant”.

McCulloch said the hospital had denied liability and had told him to pursue “the doctors”. However he said that with prescription in law looming after numerous delays by the hospital, the firm had instituted suits against both the doctors and the hospital, separately, in the hope of joining them at a later stage.

“I cannot comment or speculate on the reasons why the hospital is terminating Dumas’s contract. I can say hospitals are not used to one of their own taking sides. We usually have to go outside the province to find expert reports. It is unusual to get a local doctor to give an opinion as they usually close ranks except when it’s the state,” said McCulloch.

Dumas believes there is a “huge cover-up” taking place with regards to the hospital’s theatres.

“There are other theatres in this city that are absolutely superb. The issues we’ve been having are ongoing and the hospital is aware of them – we have documentation of the incidents and they have done absolutely nothing about them for a long time. And if they are not going to address the issues and pretend instead that nothing happened, there is nothing that is going to stop me from doing my surgery in any other theatre.”

Dumas said that, for the hospital, the issues being challenged are “a little bit too hot”.

“The one thing I want is for the truth to come out if this gets to court but I surmise they’ll probably settle the matter and get a gag order on it and nobody will ever know what is going Greg Swale on,” said Dumas.

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Submitted by : Barry Midgley of DURBAN on 2019-02-28 11:15:12
“It is unusual to get a local doctor to give an opinion as they usually close ranks except when it’s the state,” said McCulloch. It would appear that Hippocratic and hypocrite are getting the grammaticabobble treatment. Tariffsmanship, doctoring of medical documentation (really), etc and finally expulsion from Aprasa – Wow! What about the stethoscope on the patient’s wallet?
I cannot for the Life of me understand why alleged common crooks get away with a slap on the wrist. Trust me I’m a Doctor! Ja, well no fine.

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