CityPress - - News - SUZANNE VENTER news@city­press.co.za

Nine-year-old Fikane Mthuli lies like a baby on his mother Cyn­thia’s lap. The third of four chil­dren, he is un­able to speak, sit or do any­thing that other chil­dren his age can do be­cause of com­pli­ca­tions at birth that were en­tirely pre­ventable.

“I love him very much,” says his mother as she wipes the drool off Fikane’s face.

We are sit­ting in her mod­est brick house in Tsakane town­ship, Ekurhu­leni.

“He goes ev­ery­where with me. I carry him on my back.” Two weeks ago, com­put­ers at the of­fices of the Gaut­eng depart­ment of health were re­moved by the sher­iff of the court af­ter the depart­ment failed to com­ply with the pay­ment agree­ment it had reached with Mthuli’s at­tor­ney, Olof Jou­bert.

The agree­ment was reached as a set­tle­ment pay­ment re­lated to the brain dam­age Fikane suf­fered at the hands of neg­li­gent hos­pi­tal staff. The depart­ment has also been im­pli­cated for not pay­ing out in three other cases.

Last week, Jou­bert said: “The depart­ment ap­proached me to sign a pay­ment agree­ment, in terms of which the set­tle­ment amount for my client’s dam­ages could be paid in two in­stal­ments. They made one pay­ment for one of my other clients, and then noth­ing. Un­til now, they have also not re­sponded to my com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“Al­though the dam­age can never be re­paired, these chil­dren and their par­ents de­serve at least a chance for a bet­ter life.”

On Wed­nes­day, DA Gaut­eng health spokesper­son Jack Bloom said that, be­cause the depart­ment did not meet its pay­ment obli­ga­tions even af­ter the com­put­ers were at­tached, the sher­iff this week served a war­rant of ex­e­cu­tion on its 14 FNB ac­counts to re­cover R33.7 mil­lion, plus an ad­di­tional 10.5% penalty fee for late pay­ment.

The amount in­cludes dam­ages awarded to Jou­bert’s four clients whose chil­dren suf­fered brain dam­age at birth.

Fikane was born on Jan­uary 25 2008. Cyn­thia proudly dis­plays his baby pho­tos, but soon af­ter, re­al­ity in­trudes as she says sadly: “When I see other chil­dren his age, it breaks my heart that he can­not run and play.”

Cyn­thia spent five days in labour and was trans­ferred from a govern­ment clinic to Pholosong Hos­pi­tal, near Brak­pan. She was seen by, among oth­ers, two doc­tors, who in­duced her twice. At one point, she be­gan bleed­ing pro­fusely and vom­it­ing, but the nurses told her she was wast­ing their time.

When Fikane was born, he did not make a sound. He spent three weeks in the hos­pi­tal’s high-care unit. When he was six months old, his par­ents be­came con­cerned about his devel­op­ment. Tests showed he had brain dam­age.

Jessie Makhoba’s son Sipho (11) also sus­tained brain dam­age at birth. Makhoba was sup­posed to de­liver her baby by Cae­sarean sec­tion, but staff at Pholosong Hos­pi­tal re­fused and, in­stead, Sipho was re­moved with for­ceps. He sus­tained se­ri­ous head in­juries and suf­fered from a short­age of oxy­gen. Un­like Fikane, Sipho can walk, but he can­not talk.

“He is my ev­ery­thing. I just have too much love for him,” says Makhoba, tears run­ning down her cheeks.

“There is a school for spe­cial chil­dren nearby. He goes there when I am work­ing. But, aside from that, he is al­ways with me. I have to do ev­ery­thing for him.”

The court ruled that Makhoba and Mthuli be awarded R18 mil­lion each and that the amount be placed in trust for their chil­dren. Makhoba, who is the bread­win­ner in the fam­ily and re­ceives a monthly so­cial grant of R380 for Sipho, has not re­ceived a cent from govern­ment. Mthuli’s lawyer has so far been paid R4.1 mil­lion of the to­tal.

Jou­bert said: “The worst is that the par­ents and their baby are sent home af­ter birth as if noth­ing is wrong, un­til they learn the truth months later. Most of the chil­dren have cere­bral palsy and can­not talk, walk, sit or crawl. They need 24-hour care as well as spe­cial

SMIL­ING THROUGH THE PAIN Fikane Mthuli sits on his mother Cyn­thia’s lap, while his lit­tle sis­ter No­ma­sondo (5) looks on


DOT­ING MUM Sipho Makhoba and his mother Jessie, who refers to him as ‘my ev­ery­thing’

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