Ekurhuleni - Negligence by hospital staff during labour, resulting in a baby born with brain damage, has cost the Gauteng Health Department over R27 million in just one case.
The department has agreed to pay more than R27m – R6m more than initially claimed – for permanent brain damage suffered by a child born at Pholosong Hospital in Tsakane on June 16, 2014.
Her mother claimed delictual (wrongful act) against the department in the North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on grounds that Pholosong medical and nursing staff acted negligently after her admission for labour, and during labour.
She submitted that the staff had failed to properly assess and monitor her and manage the birth process. Part of the failures were that the foetal heart rate was not monitored.
The back-to-back omissions by the staff resulted in the child not being born timeously.
The mother submitted that another shocker was that the staff gave her medicine known as syntocinon “when it was dangerous and contra-indicated to do so and without performing adequate ‘cardiotocograph’ in monitoring the child’s heart rate.
She said evidence indicated that proper conduct by Pholosong hospital staff would have prevented her child’s hypoxic-ischemic (deficiency of oxygen-related) brain injuries.
The result was that the child now lived with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and her development was severely stunted.
Lawyers for the mother and the Gauteng Health Department reached a settlement on the amount to be awarded, a fresh judgment indicates. They settled on R27 399 529.
“On April 19, 2022 when the hearing resumed, both counsels informed the court that the matter had been settled and a draft order was prepared,” Acting Judge M Maubane said in the judgment.
“As per counsels’ settlement agreement, the amount to be awarded to the plaintiff is R27 399 529.
The judge brought it to the attention of both counsels that the claimed amount as per summons was R21 016 000. Acting Judge M Maubane remarked that the amount claimed had escalated to R27 399 529, and that proper amendment to the particulars of the claim had not been made.
The Health Department’s lawyer was directed to present an affidavit detailing the mandate to settle for the amount. He replied that he had a mandate to settle.
As a result of these new developments around the increase in the amount, the court made an order that the defendant’s counsel should obtain and present to the court an affidavit confirming the increase in the amount awarded. An affidavit had to be presented to the court on April 20, 2022.
On that date, the counsel for the defendant told the court that, as the officer of the court, he was entitled to settle the matter on behalf of his client, without being mandated to do so as long as he was acting objectively and in the best interests of his client.
“Having heard counsels for both parties in agreement with the amount to be awarded, it is the court’s decision that the matter of the amount awarded is then settled,” Acting Judge Maubane said.