Mother of Disabled Child Granted R10M

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A Ramsgate mother has been awarded almost R10m in damages to assist with the care of her 5-year-old son, who was born severely disabled because of medical negligence at Port Shepstone Hospital. Lawyers for the health department agreed yesterday to settle the matter moments before it was scheduled to go to trial in the Durban High Court.

In terms of the settlement which was made an order of the court the department will pay Fortunate Mkhize R9.7 million. Her attorney Andrew Eastes, of Friedman & Associates, said the money would be put in a trust for the benefit of her son, Simphiwe, and medical experts would be consulted to ensure that he receives the care he needs. “My client is relieved and is very happy,” he said.

According to papers filed with the court, Mkhize was first admitted to the hospital on January 17 2003, to give birth. She was discharged three days later without having the baby, in spite of an ultrasound scan indicating placental degeneration. Mkhize was again admitted on January 28 when, it was alleged, medical staff took no heed of her history and failed to induce her or do a Caesarean section.

Instead, staff prolonged her labour and she was made to walk up and down a passage ‘in excruciating agony’. It was also alleged that staff ignored warnings from the foetal heart monitor and the fact that Mkhize had meconium in her amniotic fluid. As a result, on January 29, Simphiwe was born severely mentally and physically handicapped with irreversible brain damage as a result of medical negligence.

Initially, the department refused to concede medical negligence but finally accepted liability last year. According to a medico-legal report compiled by Dr Rob Campbell, while Simphiwe is well cared for by his mother and grandmother and is a seemingly content child, he cannot express himself. He spends most of his days in his wheelchair – which he cannot push himself – and he cannot sit up unaided nor can he walk.

“In essence, he is fully dependent on his mother and grandmother, and has to be supervised at all times,” the report states. “He struggles to understand basic communication and is barely able to make his needs and wants known.”

Campbell recommended that provision be made for full-time carers to work around the clock for the rest of Simphiwe’s life.