R20m claim for retinopathy of prematurity

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The parents of a girl – now aged nine – are claiming more than R20m in damages from the Gauteng Health Department after the child was exposed to too much oxygen at birth, leading to her blindness, reports Pretoria News.

Issa Simela was born prematurely at 30 weeks at Natalspruit Hospital in Vosloorus and weighed 1.3kg. She required supplementary oxygen, but was unfortunately exposed to a too high concentration of oxygen. This led to a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity.

Her parents said in papers before the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) that she should have been screened for retinopathy of prematurity at the time, which was never done. By the time her mother visited outpatients with the baby two months later, the damage to her retinas had already occurred and nothing could be done at that late state to restore her vision. Experts were of the opinion that failure to screen Issa – compounded by the failure by the medical staff to advise her mother about the possibility of blindness –constituted sub-standard care from their side.

The report says Judge Lettie Molopa-Sethosa ordered that MEC Gwen Ramokgopa was 100% liable for the damages which the parents could prove their daughter had suffered.

The amount of damages would be determined at a later stage, the report says.

Pretoria News report

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