Delay in negligence case

2015-08-18 09:20


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THE KZN Health Department is to pay out an initial sum of R5 million, but faces a demand for payment of a total of R36 million in a medical negligence claim currently before the Pietermaritzburg high court.

The claim is in respect of a boy suffering from cerebral palsy due to the negligence of state hospital employees when he was born.

The case came before Judge Graham Lopes in chambers in the high court here yesterday. But after lengthy negotiations between lawyers in the corridors it was adjourned until February 15 next year, with the MEC for Health agreeing to pay a sum of R5 million in the interim, The Witness was told.

The only issue still to be decided by the high court is the total amount of damages that the province must pay Ntombenhle Mkhize, mother of the disabled boy, Thabiso Thwala.

This is because it was already conceded by KZN’s Health MEC last May, that the boy’s condition was caused by negligence on the part of state employees, and that the province is liable to pay damages.

The claim against the department is for pain and suffering, as well as for Thabiso’s past and future medical costs and special needs.

Court papers show that Mkhize gave birth to her son at Madadeni hospital in August 2009 after a prolonged labour lasting three days. A Caesarean section was not carried out despite her long labour. After birth, it took a doctor about 15 minutes to resuscitate the baby.

Both staff at Madadeni and at Utrecht clinic were cited as being negligent in their treatment of the mother and child.

The boy, now six years old, is severely mentally and physically handicapped.

Mkhize, who was at the high court yesterday in the company of her attorney, Michael Friedman of Durban, told The Witness that Thabiso is in the constant care of two caregivers who work “shifts” to look after him.

He is not able to attend school and requires specialised equipment and therapy.

Speaking via an interpreter, Mkhize said she was “upset” when she learned that there was going to be another delay in the finalisation of the case yesterday. She had hoped that the matter would reach an end, if not yesterday, then by the end of the week.

Her sentiments were echoed by Friedman, who said the adjournment was due to the fact that the state wanted to lead further evidence concerning Thabiso’s life expectancy.

“I’m not happy,” he told Mkhize in the presence of the media.

He said the state conceded it is liable to pay damages in respect of Thabiso in May last year, and the Health Department has had ample time to get its ducks in a row.

Friedman said summons was issued against the KZN Health Department in March 2013, the department admitted liability last May, and was notified of the trial date last July.

According to him, various experts, including an occupational therapist, were available to testify at court yesterday.

If the amount of damages cannot be agreed on between the parties, expert evidence will be led about Thabiso’s life expectancy, as well as the care, equipment and accommodation he needs for life in order for his condition to be properly managed.

Read more on:    department of health  |  pietermaritzburg  |  court

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