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HomeMedico-LegalGauteng Health 100% liable in R30m negligence claim, judge rules

Gauteng Health 100% liable in R30m negligence claim, judge rules

A Gauteng High Court judge has concluded that the provincial Health Department was 100% liable for the damages a mother and her now cerebral palsied child suffered due to negligence by a hospital’s nursing and medical staff.

The department is facing a claim of more than R30m – instituted on behalf of the mother and her 11-year-old daughter – after the child was born with severe brain damage, for which she has blamed staff at Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong.

Her claim includes R18.7m for future medical and related expenses and R3.6m for the pain and suffering she and the child had to endure, reports The Star.

The mother testified that she had an uneventful pregnancy and in September 2012, went to a local clinic when she suffered lower abdominal pain.

She was transferred to hospital where it was established that she was bleeding and in labour.

The mother claimed the hospital’s nursing and medical staff failed to attend to the vaginal bleeding during labour – for about nine hours – and when she needed an emergency Caesarean section, this was never performed.

As a result, the child suffered brain damage and resultant cerebral palsy, is epileptic and developmentally delayed, and has a marked speech delay and speech deficits.

The mother and her medical experts argued that the injury suffered by the child was directly linked to the staff’s failure to timeously identify that her labour was not progressing normally.

Although the Health Department initially denied the medical and nursing staff were negligent, during the trial, the departments’ experts – an obstetrician and a gynaecologist – conceded and agreed with the mother’s experts that the care received from the hospital during the birth was substandard.

The court noted she’d had an uneventful pregnancy, carrying to full term without any illnesses, infections or complications. The clinic examination found she was bleeding vaginally and she was then referred to Natalspruit Hospital by the midwives.

At the hospital, she was examined by a doctor whose clinical records showed she was examined for lower abdominal pain. There is no indication in the records that she was examined or assessed for the vaginal bleeding until much later. A doctor then ordered that a sonar be done, which did not happen.

It also appeared from the clinical notes that the monitoring of mother and foetus was not done hourly, as prescribed by the Maternity Care Guidelines.

The labour was allowed to proceed as if normal until delivery. The baby was born compromised and immediately admitted to neonatal intensive care, where she showed signs of a brain injury due to lack of oxygen.

Acting Judge MD Botsi-Thulare said it was clear that if the birth had been properly managed, the stressful situation facing the foetus could and should have been recognised and acted upon. Negligence on the part of the medical staff has therefore been proved.

“If there had been proper monitoring and assistance, foetal distress would have been detected and appropriate assistance would have been given with the delivery by a timeous Caesarean section,” the judge said.

While later admitting negligence, the department objected to the mother’s claim on the basis that she had instituted it out of time. The mother said she first had to obtain the medical records and consult experts to establish whether she could hold the department accountable.

In rejecting the department’s objection in this regard, the judge said it would be unrealistic to expect the mother, who has no knowledge of medicine, to know what caused her child’s condition without having first had an opportunity to consult a relevant medical professional or specialist for advice.

The judge concluded that the department was 100% liable for the damages the mother can prove she and her child had suffered due to the negligence.

 

The Star PressReader article – Mom claiming R30m after child brain damaged (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

Cerebral palsy causality: A quick fix to reduce medical negligence payouts

 

Lifetime cost of care in cerebral palsy medical negligence claims

 

SA targets cerebral palsy claims to staunch flood of negligence actions

 

Court grants R16m and free medical care in Easter Cape negligence case

 

UK’s NHS forks out billions to settle negligence claims

 

 

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