R18m damages for spastic quadriplegia following oxygen deprivation at birth

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Gauteng Health has to pay R18.2m in damages to a mother whose son was born more than 10 years ago with severe brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen.

A Pretoria News report says Jessie Makhoba initially claimed more than R26m in damages in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) following the negligence of the staff and doctors at the Pholosong Hospital in Brakpan.

Her son, Sipho Makhoba, is today totally dependent on others and will never be able to care for himself.

The court earlier found that the hospital – and the staff at the nearby Nokuthela Ngwenya Community Health Centre – were negligent and that the MEC was 100% liable for the damages the mother could prove that the child had suffered. The money awarded to her will be kept in a trust and used for the future care of the boy, who suffers from spastic quadriplegia.

Makhoba was admitted to the community centre on May 2, 2006, to deliver her baby. As a result of an irregular foetal heart rate she was later that night transferred to the Pholosong Hospital.

She gave birth to her son a few hours later. He was born with brain damage, which experts agreed was the fault of the staff and doctors at both the centre and the hospital.

The court found that the health centre, which assessed the mother during the pregnancy, failed to monitor her pregnancy properly and the staff failed to treat her adequately. The experts said red lights should have flashed when the mother, within three weeks, gained 12.5kg.

The mother also presented with a host of other health problems and the court found she should have been referred to a doctor during her pregnancy.

The staff and doctors at the hospital where she eventually gave birth, did not fare any better. They did not monitor and manage the foetal condition of the baby. They performed three failed instrumental deliveries – two vacuum and one forceps extraction, before they eventually decided to deliver the baby via Caesarean section.

The experts agreed that when the doctors and nurses saw that the mother and unborn baby were in distress during labour, they should have immediately called in the help of a paediatrician.

After-birth care also lacked, as the baby should have immediately been transferred to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit.

Sipho developed convulsions after birth, with chronic vomiting. He will for the rest of his life need round-the-clock care.

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