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Pretoria - Pretoria Gardens couple Marco Brits and Janine Meiring on Tuesday left a meeting - their first with hospital management since the death of their newborn baby at Khalafong Hospital almost a month ago - with very little satisfaction. No reassurance of accountability was given for the tragedy that night.
The couple met hospital chief executive Lancelot Phalatsi and three heads of department.
They were accompanied by their lawyer, a move they believe discouraged formal discussions.
“The meeting lasted no more than 10 minutes, the chief executive officer gave his condolences and confirmed a probe was under way,” Brits said.
The couple were invited to the meeting this week after their story made headline news, and after numerous failed attempts to get answers about that fateful night.
The parents, both 33, had arrived at the hospital at about 10pm on Christmas Eve, with Meiring 27 weeks’ pregnant and in labour.
They say they were sent from pillar to post by staff, who refused to acknowledge or investigate Meiring’s claims of being in an advanced stage of labour. She was also denied a wheelchair.
At the maternity ward, Meiring was told no beds were available. When finally examined by nurses and a doctor, her claims that her baby was about to be born were dismissed. “They said he was too small and nowhere near being born.”
At the sonar room the doctor performed a scan and told her she was not as advanced as she claimed and ordered her back to the ward.
As she walked away from the bed she felt her baby crown and he slid out on to the floor. The couple watched in horror as he bounced on the floor, rupturing the umbilical cord and splattering blood over the room. The doctor told the shocked mother to pick up her baby and turned his back on them.
The mother rushed Baby Donavan to the maternity ward, where he was whisked away. She was later told he was critical, and then that he had died, because he was premature; or because he had been haemorrhaging from the umbilical cord; because of head trauma from the fall; infection; or because his lungs were underdeveloped.
Meiring lay in her hospital bed and watched as Health MEC Hope Papo came to see Christmas babies. “They refused me permission to speak to him.”
To add to their woes, Baby Donavan’s death certificates were full of errors - on one he was said to have been stillborn; another gave his race as black; the mother’s surname was wrong on another and, on one, the cause of death was given as asphyxia. The last death certificate gave the cause of death as natural.
This week, which marks a month after Baby Donavan’s death, the Department of Health has launched an investigation to find out if there was any negligence by staff.
The couple are engaging lawyers on how to get the hospital and doctor to account for the death of their baby.
“We also want to ensure this doesn’t happen to any mother or child, no matter their race, age or social circumstances.”