More than 400 babies die every year during birth at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, but it is claimed that no negligence was involved in these deaths or in babies who became brain damaged after birth.
This was revealed in Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa's written response to DA MPL Jack Bloom's questions at the Gauteng Legislature.
According to the response, the number of births and deaths of babies in the past three years is as follows:
Year 2014 2015 2016
Total Births 21653 20324 19529
Total Deaths 446 466 426
"The total number of births in these three years is 61 507, of which 1338 resulted in death. This is a death rate of about 2% which is distressing but partly explained because more complicated births are referred to this hospital.
The deaths were caused by prematurity, infection, asphyxia (lack of oxygen) and congenital abnormalities," Bloom said in a statement.
Ramokgopa stated that "no baby was born with brain damage" but babies with severe asphyxia could get brain damage which manifests as cerebral palsy.
293 babies were born with mild asphyxia between 2014 and 2016, and 28 babies had severe asphyxia.
Ramokgopa claimed that "there has not been any negligence found identified" but "the legal unit is liaising with the HR department to investigate medico-legal issues raised."
Contributing factors leading to birth asphyxia include the following:
Health worker factors include failure to diagnose foetal distress, failure to monitor labour and failure to intervene timeously;
Patient factors like failure to book or attend antenatal classes and failure to present timeously while in labour;
System factors like delay in performing a Caesarean section due to overcrowding, stretched ambulance services due to high volume of patients, and a neonatal ICU that functions above capacity.
There are currently 18 vacant posts in the Neo-Natal and Maternity Departments.
"I am not convinced about the department's denial of negligence in the 28 severe asphyxia cases that could have caused brain damage. This hospital has by far the most negligence cases which in end up in court with huge payouts - R514 million has been paid to 44 claimants since January 2015," Bloom added.
In one case alone, R36.8 million was paid for the lifetime costs of a baby with cerebral palsy cause by negligence at the hospital.
He stated, "The vacant posts need to be filled urgently and extra care taken to ensure as few negligence cases as possible."