Home News Mom awarded R3.4m after suffering severe brain damage after a Caesarean

Mom awarded R3.4m after suffering severe brain damage after a Caesarean

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Medical experts believed that this was “without a doubt” a case of medical negligence.

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THE DEPARTMENT of Health has made a R3.4 million settlement in a damages claim in the Northern Cape High Court, where a 24-year-old patient was left severely brain damaged while undergoing a Caesarean section at Kimberley Hospital Complex in 2013.

The Department of Health has also been ordered by the court to pay the legal fees of the court application, as well as the costs relating to the appointment of the patient’s curator bonis and curator ad litem.

This amount includes the payment of R150 000 in expert fees for an anaesthesiologist, neurosurgeon, industrial psychologist and actuary as well as the compiling of medical reports.

The patient, Kediemetse Setswambung, was referred to Kimberley Hospital Complex on October 3, 2013 after she was admitted at the Connie Vorster Hospital in Hartswater when she went into labour.

A spinal anaesthetic was administered before and during the procedure, where the anaesthesiologist instructed nursing personnel to assist at Kimberley Hospital.

While under anaesthesia Setswambung suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of low oxygen levels which resulted in permanent brain damage, leaving her in a vegetative state.

According to the medical reports submitted, the cerebral injury could have been prevented if the correct dosage of the correct medication was administered on time.

Medical experts believed that this was “without a doubt” a case of medical negligence.

It was also noted that the blood pressure machine was not working at the time of the incident.

The head of clinical anaesthesiology at the University of Pretoria, Dr JM Dippenaar, indicated that the patient had inadequate blood flow to her organs for about 15 minutes before her blood pressure was stabilised, which “directly contributed” to the injury suffered.

The legal representative and curator ad litem for Setswambung, advocate Daniel Olivier, argued that the administration of the spinal block was a high risk factor, while medical personnel had failed to take the necessary steps to treat and prevent the cardiac arrest.

He claimed that medical staff had not ensured that the proper equipment was functioning and that the available medication was on hand when the emergency arose.

Any prospects of any improvement on her condition was reported to be “unlikely”.

The original claim was for R10 million for past, current and future medical expenses, loss of income and general damages.

The claim included damages, loss of maintenance and support of Setswambung’s child who was born on October 3, 2013, as his mother is unable to care for him.

At the time of his birth Setswambung was in the process of completing Grade 12 and intended to become a teacher.

Setswambung’s mother is currently unemployed after she abandoned her job as a waitress and voluntary home-based caregiver in order to attend to her daughter, who requires 24-hour specialised care.

The State attorney, on behalf of the Department of Health, pointed out that the anaesthetic was administered safely and adequately and that nursing personnel were adequately trained, where the patient gave her consent to the procedure.

“The patient had a negative reaction to the spinal anaesthetic that rendered her severely brain damaged and in a vegetative state.”

It stated that due care was taken to monitor effective ventilation of the lungs and blood pressure throughout the procedure, where all abnormalities were immediately attended to.

The department denied that the sole cause of the neurological injuries condition of the patient was due to any negligence on the side of medical staff.

It also indicated that properly functioning equipment was readily available to monitor the blood pressure of the patient and that the theatre was stocked with the required medication to deal with the emergency situation that arose.

Chairperson for the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, believed that the provincial Department of Health was squandering more money on medical legal claims when the matter should have been settled in 2016 after medical experts submitted their findings that it was a clear-cut case of negligence.

“The department went against the advice of the experts in defending the matter and in the process incurred unnecessary expenses, now it has to pay, among others, the legal costs, the expert fees and court costs.

“Notwithstanding it has outstanding medical legal claims of R1.5 billion that is increasing on a daily basis.”

Cope chairperson Pakes Dikgetsi called for the department to be put under the administration of the national Department of Health.

“The Department of Health in the Province is clearly unable to deliver basic services, does not meet the national core standards and cannot fulfil its obligations. The medical legal task team must be disbanded because it is costing the department dearly. It is nothing more than a waste of time and money.”

The Department of Health did not respond to media enquiries.