Another mom sues KZN health MEC
Durban - In yet another negligence claim against the KwaZulu-Natal Health Department, the mother of an 18-year-old is suing for R5 million in damages after he was born disabled.
This follows on the heels of an order for a R14 million payout, reported in the Daily News’s sister paper, the The Mercury on Tuesday,
to a mother whose child suffered deformity due to negligence during her birth in 2009.
Suits like these have alarmed national Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi who organised a meeting of MECs and heads of department in January to discuss the issue after a barrage of successful claims against health departments.
He later said that cash payouts should be stopped, successful claimants should be paid in instalments, and that private insurance should be included in awards. However to do this new legislation was required.
In the most recent case, the Newcastle woman said her son’s mental and physical disabilities were caused by the provincial hospital’s negligence when she gave birth 18 years ago.
Thulisile Mfusi’s application for condonation was granted on Monday in the Durban High Court by acting Judge Sharon Marks.
The Health Department is opposing her claim, arguing she should have done so when her child was born. It also had no knowledge of the allegations as proof has not been provided.
Mfusi argued she had to resort to this legal action as the department had ignored the notice of her claim sent by her attorney three years ago.
She said her late application was due to her being a lay person, unaware of her own rights, and her child’s, until she had consulted an attorney in 2011.
Further, she could not leave her son unattended to seek legal advice until he was 14.
“He became so dependent on me that I would not be able to leave him for more than on hour a week.
“I’m a poor person without assistance from anyone, and paying the costs of care while I went about investigating whether a claim was possible before the child was 14 years old was impossible,” her affidavit read.
The drama unfolded on August 4, 1997, when she was admitted to Madadeni Provincial Hospital’s labour ward at about midday. Her son was already in the birth canal, she said.
This, she said, was confirmed by a nurse on admission. However, she claimed she was left unattended until about 5pm that day and then again until 7pm.
She gave birth after 7pm and as a result of the hospital staff’s “maltreatment and negligence” she claimed her child:
- Suffered asphyxia and was non-reactive on delivery.
- Was not breathing after birth and was born with his eyes closed.
Mfusi said deprivation of oxygen during delivery had caused hypoxia and her son experienced epileptic seizures soon after delivery. He had mental retardation and was a quadriplegic
She had worked as a domestic worker but had to leave her job to look after her son, who, she said, required 24-hour care.
She only learnt of the hospital staff’s alleged negligence being responsible for her son’s condition after being referred to a specialist paediatrician when she consulted an attorney.
The paediatrician claimed her son suffered from specific cerebral palsy damage as a result of oxygen deprivation at the time of birth.
Mfusi holds the Health MEC liable for what happened and is claiming compensation for future medical expenses, future loss of earnings for the child, general damages for pain and suffering, disability and loss of enjoyment of the amenities of life for her child.
She said the department had not consented to the condonation because medical records were destroyed five years ago.
Other cases where the health department has been sued include:
- In July 2014 the mother of 4-year-old Nomfundo Skhosana of Inanda, who was born with irreversible brain damage as a result of medical negligence, received an interim payment from the Department of Health.
- In June 2014 the mother of a child born with complications at Charles Johnson Memorial Hospital at Nquthu (northern KZN), sued the health MEC for over R15m on behalf of her daughter, Sethabile Matyana.
- In August 2013 a first-time mother whose baby died an hour after she had give birth at uMlazi’s Prince Mshiyeni Hospital sued the provincial government for R3m in damages.
- In the recent R14m award reported in The Mercury the matter was settled out of court. The woman claimed staff at Inanda Clinic and Mahatma Gandhi Hospital had been negligent and that she and her unborn child were not properly monitored despite complications.