THE KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has accepted liability in two medical negligence suits that could cost taxpayers R20 million. The two suits were among three against the department considered by the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday, which total R31,2 million. This comes after it was recently stated in Parliament that the KZN Health Department faces almost R1 billion in medical negligence lawsuits for the 2012/13 financial year. The figure emerged in a reply to DA MPL Makhosazana Mdlalose. Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo conceded liability in two of the cases in court yesterday. The amounts to be paid are to be determined either by agreement, or proved via expert evidence. In one case, Krugersdorp resident Amanda van der Berg sued for R4,732 million after her husband Morne died from complications resulting from an anaesthetic administered at Northdale hospital during an operation in 2008. According to court papers, Van der Berg suffered multiple injuries in a car crash and was taken to Northdale. He remained in hospital until he died on October 2, 2008. The papers say medical staff failed to get his consent before administering a spinal anaesthetic; didn’t adequately monitor his vital signs while he was under anaesthetic; and failed to monitor him for signs of complications. As a result they failed to respond urgently to a sudden fall in his blood pressure, were unable to resuscitate him and he died. Pietermaritzburg attorney Sergie Brimiah said Van der Berg had “heaved a sigh of relief” that her ordeal was over. She was satisfied that the hospital had finally accepted responsibility for the actions of its staff, he said. The other matter in which the authorities admitted they were negligent is that of Kokstad resident Ayesha Naidoo, whose prematurely born son, Muhammed Umar Khan, is permanently blind. This is due to the failure of staff at Port Shepstone and Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospitals to adequately monitor him for a condition known as Retinopathy of Prematurity. The court papers reveal that after his birth on September 18, 2006, the baby was transferred on various occasions between the two hospitals. The allegations were that staff didn’t properly monitor his oxygen levels, and failed to advise Naidoo to return for regular check-ups of his eyes. Naidoo claimed damages of R15,5 million. The third claim before court yesterday was that of Philisiwe Mashele, of Newcastle, who alleges that her baby boy, Nosinathi, born on June 6, 2011 suffered brain damage after being given the wrong medicine by a nurse at a clinic on May 5 last year. The case was adjourned to May 22 next year. The DA said recently that the sheer volume of claims against the Health Department raised “serious concerns over the quality of medical care on offer to patients who are completely reliant on state health care”. Prince Mshiyeni hospital was said to have the highest number of claims — 16 for an amount of R100 million — followed by Addington with 15 claims totalling R40 million, and King Edward with 10 lawsuits involving R60 million. KZN Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi would not comment, saying the cases are before court.