Health must pay R23,5 mln

2017-03-10 15:02
The KZN Health Department will pay a whopping R23,5 million for a medical negligence claim against them.

The KZN Health Department will pay a whopping R23,5 million for a medical negligence claim against them. (File)

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The KZN Health Department once again must pay yet another massive sum — a whopping R23,5 million this time — for a medical negligence claim against them.

This means the burden of a very relieved single mother to care for her mentally and physically challenged son has been lifted.

This is believed to be one of the biggest payouts in KZN for a medical negligence claim.

The mother, from Pietermaritzburg, who will be referred to as “Florence” in our article to protect her privacy and that of her son, said a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.

“It has not sunk in yet,” she said laughing thankfully in a telephonic interview.

“I thank God from the bottom of my heart. I also pray that my attorney, Michael Friedman, and people with that passion will be around for a very long time so that others in need can also be helped,” she said.

Friedman said his client had waited “14 long years to be compensated for a travesty that was not of her doing”.

“Finally she and her family will be able to give her son a better quality of life,” he said.

Florence said the money will be held in a trust and used only to care for her son’s needs for the rest of his life.

“It is not my money. It is for him,” she said.

It means she can now afford to pay for the ongoing physiotherapy and speech therapy her son requires and specialised equipment he needs, as well as caregivers.

It will also make life a lot easier as she can now afford a car to ferry him to school and to his various appointments instead of battling to travel by taxi.

She can also allow herself to consider her own future, and even possibly contemplate marriage in a year or two, she said. Until now, she has dedicated her own life to taking care of her son and chose not to have any more children so that she could devote herself to his needs.

“I used to be bitter but with God’s help and prayers I have realised that there are some things you should let go. There are days that I will cry and my pillow will be wet with tears … but with God by my side I am able to let go and move on,” she said. “I want to watch my son grow old … I dream that one day he will even have girlfriend,” she said.

She said some parents facing similar challenges are “in denial” and said acceptance of the situation is the key to coping.

She said once she accepted her son’s condition she made sure she followed the instructions of therapists to the letter, and devoted at least 10 minutes daily to his therapy at home.

She takes great joy in every improvement in her son’s condition. She said while he is able to walk but is “not stable” and will fall if he runs.

His spine is very weak, she said.

He has challenges learning and writing and “takes a very long time to do his homework”. He also constantly “drools” from his mouth, making it difficult for him to eat liquid food such as porridge and he also cannot speak coherently.

“But oh my gosh, he loves people and people just love him,” she added.

She said apart from God, the support of her family has got her through the hard times. “Especially my mother. God bless that woman. She has been there for me from day one,” she said.

Florence said it was hard sometimes to watch other children in the family achieve their age-appropriate milestones while her son struggles.

She said at least two years had passed after her son’s birth before she understood that his condition was due to medical negligence and she sought legal advice.

It took lawyers four years (from 2008 to 2012) to obtain her medical records from the hospital, Florence said. The lawsuit was filed in 2014.

The KZN Health Department conceded liability in the case some time ago and the matter came before Judge Piet Bezuidenhout this week in connection with the amount.

The eventual settlement was based on findings by medical experts, including occupational therapists and psychologists.

The original damages claim against the MEC for Health in KZN was for R34 261 825. The claim arose from negligence by staff at Imbalenhle Clinic and Edendale hospital, which resulted in the baby being born both mentally and physically handicapped.

According to court papers staff at both the clinic and hospital failed to follow prescribed guidelines for the management of patients who suffered prematurely ruptured membranes as in this case.

The clinic failed, on becoming aware that the patient’s membranes had ruptured, to immediately transfer her to hospital, to induce labour immediately and only transferred her 48 hours after the membranes ruptured.

The medical staff at both the clinic and the hospital had unnecessarily prolonged the mother’s labour, failed to assess the risk to the foetus and failed to resuscitate the baby upon his birth.

KZN Department of Health spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said, “The department respects the court judgment and is currently studying it. That said, the department would like to place it on record that it is concerned by the escalating medico legal claims.”

He added the department has embarked on “proactive plans and strategies to mitigate issues and challenges that result in such claims”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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