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Johannesburg - They gave her four times the required labour-inducing dose in a medical blunder that cut off her oxygen supply and left her baby with cerebral palsy.
In a lawsuit against a department already swamped by multi-million-rand medical negligence claims, Itumeleng Makgomarela has managed to hold the Gauteng Department of Health accountable,and successfully sued it in the Johannesburg High Court.
Makgomarela claimed R15 million in damages, but an amount awarded has still to be set. The money would be for her son’s future medical treatment, his future loss of earnings, general damages for pain and suffering, loss of the pleasures of life and for disability.
It was also for the curator who will be appointed to run the boy’s affairs.
Then aged 22, Makgomarela was admitted to Tembisa Hospital in December 2005. The next morning, the woman, who was 42 weeks pregnant, was given four Prostin tablets. Not only was it negligent to administer the labour-inducing pills as Makgomarela was already in labour, but she was given four times the required dosage.
The excessive dosage caused contractions which were too strong, too close together and too quick. This made it difficult for the baby to recover between contractions and affected its blood flow to the heart. Subsequently, the oxygen flow also slowed down as the baby gets its oxygen from the blood. When the baby was delivered, he was “floppy and blue”, suffered from fits and convulsions and was immediately sent to ICU.
“In my view, negligence has been established. In consequence of that negligence, the baby suffered a hypoxic event at birth causing the cerebral palsy,” Johannesburg High Court Judge Colin Lamont ruled.
He also found that staff at the hospital had not adhered to the March 2002 guidelines for maternity care, which provided that a woman given the labour-inducing medication has to be monitored constantly. Also, extra monitoring is essential in cases of post-date pregnancies like Makgomarela’s.
“The experts [testified that] the management of the labour was not in accordance with practice and that the decision to administer Prostin was incorrectly made,” the judge ruled.
Lawyers representing the department had raised issues such as the baby’s inconsistent growth rate before birth.
But this argument was dismissed as the issue of the baby’s unusual growth rate was never raised with the mother or even scribbled on the clinic card. Also, it was ruled that such factors alone would not have caused the baby to be cerebral palsied.
The Tembisa woman’s claim is just one of the many claims that the department has not defended.
Five months ago, the department paid R1.6m compensation towards eight-year-old Ntokozo Skhosana, who suffered cerebral palsy during his 2004 birth at Far East Rand Hospital. The payout followed that of Prince Khanyi’s, who was also brain damaged during birth at Pholosong Hospital - also in Ekurhuleni.
The department paid only in February - a year after the court ruling.
A similar case of brain damage during birth was that of Tanya Khumbula, whose parents successfully sued the department for R12m after she was brain damaged during birth at Edenvale Hospital.
Shabbier Nagel, who had a leg amputated after being admitted for heart surgery at Steve Biko Academic Hospital, was paid R6.25m, while Nicholaas van Niekerk, who was brain-damaged got R5m.
“The department has lost every single court case in the last two years, which shows how bad treatment is in our public hospitals. Urgent steps are needed to ensure quality health care so that negligence is minimised,” said the DA’s Jack Bloom.
Gauteng health spokesman Simon Zwane said yesterday that the department was “employing more doctors and nurses to reduce these incidents”.