The damaged generation: Tragedy strikes after nurse panics

2013-08-25 14:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Botched births worsen plight of young mothers, writes Zinhle Mapumulo.

Beauty Nkosi’s son was born inside his ­ruptured amniotic sac. The sac is a thin membrane filled with protective fluid that holds the baby inside its mother’s uterus.

The sac is harmless and is simply wiped away.

But when the nurse who helped Nkosi give birth saw the sac, she panicked and left the mother and the baby, who remained inside the sac, to go off and call a doctor.

When the doctor arrived in the labour ward minutes later, he was furious when he saw what the emergency was, saying the nurse should have torn the sac and taken the baby out immediately.

When baby Nhlanhla was eventually ­removed, he didn’t cry. The nurse then placed a ventilation bag and mask over his nose, and placed him in an incubator.

The next day, Nkosi was discharged, but Nhlanhla remained in hospital for more than a week. It was not explained to her why her son needed further medical attention.

Nkosi, a mother of six, said she only ­realised when Nhlanhla was about six months old that he wasn’t like other children.

“He could not sit on his own or lift his head,” she said.

When he was 11 months old and still ­unable to sit, Nkosi took him back to ­Pholosong Hospital, where she learnt that her son had cerebral palsy.

“The doctor only told me it may cause problems with his development and that I had to bring him for physiotherapy. Nobody cared to explain what this condition was or what caused it.”

Nhlanhla is now four and cannot talk, walk, feed himself or sit on his own.

Nkosi and her partner, who are both ­between temporary jobs, take turns to look after him. Her elder son, who is 18 years old, also helps when he can.

What the health department says

The Gauteng health department ­admits that it is facing a large number of lawsuits as a result of medical negligence in its hospitals.

However, it says the problem is not as bad as it is portrayed.

After being told that Health MEC Hope Papo was unavailable for an ­interview this week, City Press sent a list of questions relating to 336 ­lawsuits amounting to R1.9 billion, 35% of which concern poor maternal care that led to hundreds of children being brain damaged.

When asked if the department ­believed that the number of children brain damaged at birth reflected its standard of care, department ­spokesperson Simon Zwane said it did not.

“Underlying factors such as ­socioeconomic challenges and preconditions of patients contribute to the number of lawsuits,” he said.

“It is also important to note that the number of children delivered in provincial hospitals is more than 200?000 per year and almost all of them do not sustain injury. Those who sustain injuries are a tiny minority.”

However, Zwane said: “We have prioritised the employment and ­training of midwives as a key intervention to address the situation.

“Last year 120 nurses were trained in midwifery and 79 were trained in advanced midwifery and neonatology.

The training of nurses on neonatal ­resuscitation was also carried out to improve the survival of babies and prevent injuries.

“And equipment such as cardiotocography and fetal monitors were ­also purchased.”

Zwane said 34 staff members in the province had been disciplined for negligence last year.

The department had introduced a system of clinical ­audits to ensure continual improvement in the quality of care.

“There is ongoing training in all ­facilities to improve attitudes and communication between staff and ­patients,” he said.

In the 2012/13 financial year, 188 doctors and 203 nurses were trained to manage obstetric emergencies, and nurses were trained to use early ­warning charts, he said.

Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital faces the highest number of birth-related lawsuits related to babies who sustained brain injuries at birth and later developed cerebral palsy.

The department defended the ­facility’s performance, saying: “It is ­important to note that Chris Hani Baragwanath is a referral hospital and therefore deals with complicated ­cases, so it is not alarming if they have more obstetric litigations than other hospitals.”

Early last year, the hospital brought in advanced midwives from the ­military medical corps to help.

And Zwane said they were doing something about it.

“The hospital has employed more midwives and improved the availability of equipment to address factors that lead to obstetric litigation,” he said.

City Press and Media 24 Investigation’s probe revealed a number of ­cases in which medical devices such as forceps and vacuums were used to tragic effect during deliveries.

Both ­instruments can increase the risk of brain injury if used incorrectly and many countries, including Britain, no longer use them in state hospitals.

Zwane said the department has stopped its doctors from using forceps, but they continue to use the vacuum method as they believe it to be safer.

“There are operational guidelines and standards that conform to ­well-researched international ­standards. Such methods are still ­successfully applied with a high rate of successful deliveries,” he said.

About the R1.9 billion in claims it faces, Zwane said: “While we ­acknowledge there are potential ­liabilities, some of the cases have been successfully concluded, settled and closed at lesser amounts.”

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.