Blindness: MEC liable to pay damages

2009-10-09 00:00

THE KZN Health MEC has been held liable by the high court in Pietermaritzburg to pay damages for a child’s blindness.

Judge Trevor Gorven yesterday ruled in favour of Tanya Bunge, who sued the MEC as well as medical practitioners at Port Shepstone Hospital for negligence in connection with their dealings with her premature baby boy, George, in 2003.

She later withdrew the lawsuit against the doctors as it was common cause that the MEC is legally liable for their conduct as their employer.

At this stage the high court has ruled only that the MEC is liable to pay damages, and the actual sum will be determined separately.

In a reserved judgment handed down yesterday, Judge Gorven said he found as a fact that the oxygen saturation levels — resulting from oxygen being administered to the baby by way of a “head box” placed inside the incubator — were above the recommended range; that Bunge was not advised in time of the risk of “retinopathy of prematurity” (a medical condition affecting eyesight) and the need for timeous screening. He also ruled that had Bunge been advised to seek screening, she would have taken steps immediately to have the baby screened.

“This would have prevented blindness,” the judge found.

“I find that George could have been taken to another hospital under the control of [the Health MEC] for screening within the recommended period and that, had this taken place, blindness would, on a balance of probabilities, have been prevented.”

He based these findings on the evidence of experts who testified.

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