The Gauteng Health Department is liable for about R1.1 million in damages to the mother of a 2-year-old girl, who died following complications she suffered at a public hospital.
It was reported the hospital failed to make an early diagnoses of hydrocephalus (where fluid is accumulated on the brain) and thus did not start treatment in time.
The mother, who is HIV-positive and cannot be named, gave birth to a twin boy and girl in 2014 at the Natalspruit Hospital in Vosloorus. The boy died six months after birth of a medical condition, but the mother did not institute legal proceedings following his death.
Her daughter, however, died two years later, and the mother claimed damages in respect of her birth, in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
While the health authorities denied any negligence relating to the daughter’s condition, they did concede liability on another leg of the claim; that the child suffered some burn marks shortly after birth as she was placed too close to a heater.
In this regard, the department agreed to pay the mother R100 000. It, however, maintained it could not be blamed for the child’s death.
According to the health officials, if the court found them to have been negligent in any way, the mother must also be said to have contributed to the negligence as she had hardly attended any prenatal classes before birth.
Apart from claiming that the doctors at the hospital did not diagnose her child’s brain condition in time, the mother also alleged that a shunt which was inserted in her brain became blocked and was never replaced.
The court was told the twins were born prematurely in 2014, although via natural birth. It was said to be a difficult birth involving various complications. The girl had to be resuscitated at birth and she also received oxygen.
Three months after her birth she was diagnosed as suffering from a “bulging fontanel.” She was again admitted to the hospital, where a stent was inserted in her brain.
A few months later, the mother complained that her child had become blind.
A scan of the brain meanwhile showed the stent had become displaced. Doctors said they did attend to this, but a few months later, it was discovered the stent was blocked and the child had suffered extensive fluid on the brain.
The child was referred to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for an urgent stent revision, but this was never done prior to her death.
After hearing the evidence of a host of medical expert witnesses, the court concluded that the doctors and nurses had failed to render the necessary medical attention to the child, including diagnosing her condition in time and treating her accordingly.
Acting Judge BC Wanless said the mother had to go through a lot of trauma.
She was diagnosed as being HIV-positive while she was pregnant, and she had to face her little daughter’s continuous crying up to the age of two. The child could not, among others, eat due to her condition and the mother had to try and force food down her throat.
“No amount of monetary compensation will ever be enough to alleviate a parent’s loss of a child. Particularly so, when the child is so young,” the judge said.