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R30m lawsuit after baby left brain damaged

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The baby’s oxygen supply was not regulated during birth, and he suffered an oxygen shortage leading him to sustain brain damage

IN WHAT could lead to a groundbreaking ruling, an unemployed mother from Greenpoint, Kimberley is seeking damages of more than R30 million from the Northern Cape Department of Health, after her son was born with brain damage at the (then) Kimberley Hospital in 2012 following alleged negligence by medical staff at the hospital.

The department, however, is contesting that, if the allegations are proven, it will render the necessary medical services claimed at state health care institutions.

Sylvia Louw gave birth to her son at the (now) Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley on July 11, 2012.

She has approached the Northern Cape High Court in an attempt to claim R34 385 930 from the Northern Cape Department of Health, alleging that the baby sustained brain damage as a result of negligent conduct by employees of the department.

According to Louw, the medical staff who treated her were aware that there was meconium in her amniotic fluid and they should have been aware that this was indicative that her son was exposed to reduced oxygen, and was in a state of oxygen shortage, and could therefore create a dangerous environment for the baby during birth, that could lead the child to sustain brain damage.

According to court documents, Louw claims that as a result of the negligence of employees, the baby’s oxygen supply was not regulated during birth, and he suffered an oxygen shortage leading him to sustain brain damage.

As a result of the brain damage, the child has been physically disabled since birth to such an extent that he is paralysed and cannot care for or feed himself, with no prospect of being able to do so in the future. He is unable to talk or communicate, is a mentally disabled quadriplegic and will be completely dependant on others to care for him now and in the future.

The plaintiff claims that as a result of negligence of the employees the child now suffers from permanent disability and loss of life enjoyment and that this will result in expenses, that include future loss of income (totalling

R927 888), as well as expenses totalling R30 458 042 (including renovations to his home, dentistry and other general medical expenses). The plaintiff is also claiming R3 000 000 for costs relating to past and future expenses relating to pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. It is estimated that the child suffered damages totalling R34 385 930 as a result of the alleged negligence of medical staff.

The Northern Cape Department of Health, however, will be contesting that if the allegations are proven, it will accommodate the child and supply the goods and or render the medical services claimed in respect of the child’s future hospital medical and related expenses at a public health care institution.

The Eastern Cape Department of Health is also expected to make submissions in the matter, after a representative in court said yesterday that it also had an interest in the matter due to the increase in medical damages claims, already equalling a “startling amount”.

Louw is being represented by Hentie van Heerden, as well as WP de Waal (SC) and CH Botha instructed by Elliot Maris Wilmans and Hay Attorneys.

The matter is expected to continue in the Northern Cape High Court today.

– Norma Wildenboer