Doctor in botched birth will know fate this week

2016-11-06 06:05
Doctor Danie van der Walt. (Witbank News)

Doctor Danie van der Walt. (Witbank News)

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Mbombela - A gynaecologist in Mpumalanga, who, in the Witbank Magistrate’s Court in September, was found guilty of culpable homicide following the death of a 23-year-old mother in 2005, will finally know his fate when his sentence is handed down on Thursday.

The family is hoping that the court’s sentence will be harsher than “the slap on the wrist” that the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) handed down in 2007. The HPCSA ordered Dr Danie van der Walt to pay a R10 000 admission of guilt fine.

Van der Walt’s role in Pamela Daweti’s death at the Life Cosmos Private Hospital’s maternity ward in Emalahleni on August 12, 2005, became a tragic story of negligence that was captured in an investigation report by chief gynaecologist Dr Mokete Titus.

The report found that Van der Walt had left Daweti bleeding after delivering the baby and did not investigate what caused the bleeding. He also did not attend to her properly after she delivered the child.

A witness, 54-year-old Buyiselwa Maditjana (the mother of the victim), testified that the doctor was “drunk” on the day – a claim the court did not accept.

Titus’ report was the most vital expert evidence used in court and at the HPCSA’s hearing. It said that Daweti endured 14 hours of labour and excessive bleeding after delivering her baby, Lisakhanya, but Van der Walt was away most of the time and gave instructions to nurses by phone.

“He failed to examine the patient and plan management accordingly. The patient was in labour for nearly 14 hours, and prolonged labour creates a high risk for postpartum haemorrhage [bleeding after giving birth], which he should have anticipated,” Titus said.

During labour, Van der Walt’s conduct was “wholly substandard” in that he did not get Daweti’s consent for delivery of the baby using instruments – a vacuum extractor and later forceps.

“Dr Van der Walt applied a vacuum extractor unsuccessfully, followed by the ill-advised use of forceps,” the report stated.

“[Daweti] suffered a third-degree perinea tear, which was repaired under anaesthetic in the delivery room. This was substandard as this tear must be repaired in the operating theatre under general anaesthesia.

“The nurses were left to battle on their own and they managed to barely keep the patient alive while the doctor, who should have been in charge, was giving telephonic verbal orders,” Titus said.

When Daweti was eventually taken to theatre, it was too late, and she suffered cardiac arrest.

Van der Walt decided not to testify in the trial, and he only testified during the inquest.

“I can’t comment on anything. The matter is in the hands of my legal advisers,” Van der Walt said.

It is unclear if he plans to appeal his conviction and the sentence.

Van der Walt was also Maditjana’s gynecologist. She had reservations when referring her daughter to him, even though she miscarried twins under Van der Walt’s supervision a few weeks before Daweti died.

She said the past 11 years had been tough. She claimed that she had to fight for justice because her docket got lost at least three times and an inquest into Daweti’s death was kept under wraps in the Witbank Magistrate’s Court.

Maditjana said that her daughter had had a bright future ahead of her – Daweti was doing her second year in film making.

“I told Van der Walt that I would spend all my money to find justice, even if it meant I had to live under a tree,” Maditjana said.

Read more on:    hpcsa  |  mbombela  |  health

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