R14m payout for medical negligence
AHARROWING almost 24-hours in labour and a seizure caused by a lifethreatening complication were what a Durban mother had to endure when she went to a government clinic to give birth to her baby girl.
Her child was born severely brain damaged in 2009 and will have to rely on others for the rest of her life.
The woman, who is not being named to protect the identity of her 6-year-old daughter, sued the Health MEC for damages as she claimed that staff at an Inanda clinic and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital had been negligent.
The matter was set down for trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court as the Health Department had denied any wrongdoing and said the mother and child had been given proper care.
But the matter was recently settled.
Friedman and Associates, the mother’s law firm, said in terms of the court order, the department was ordered to pay R14 million to the mother, and her legal costs.
The court also directed that a trust be set up in the child’s name and that the department pay the trustees’ remuneration.
The court papers detail the mother’s condition from when she was admitted to the Inanda clinic at midday on December 12, 2009, after she had been experiencing labour pains from 5am.
She had elevated blood pressure and her doctor ordered that the baby’s heart rate be checked every 30 minutes. He also ordered that the mother be reassessed every two hours.
At 10pm, it was recorded that the baby’s heart rate had dropped, but the observation was not reported to a doctor.
From 10.40pm, there were no more observations done on the condition of the mother or the baby by the clinic staff.
The mother was transferred to Mahatma Gandhi hospital only after midnight, and at 2am she was diagnosed with eclampsia, a life-threatening complication of pregnancy causing seizures or coma.
She had a seizure with stiffness in her limbs and the baby was delivered by caesarean section just before 5am.
The court papers said the clinic staff failed to properly monitor the condition of the mother, especially her elevated blood pressure, and that she was in prolonged labour.
They also failed to pick up that the health of the child was being compromised when the baby’s heart rate dropped.
“The medical personnel at the clinic and the hospital failed to provide the mother and child with appropriate treatment, failed to take such steps to ensure the baby’s best care and well-being.”
The child was born severely mentally and physically handicapped, blind and partly deaf.
She will need therapy, specialised medical equipment and adaptations to her living environment and full-time care either at home or in a specialised institution.