Litigation: Hospital liability for baby's cerebral palsy confirmed

The Gauteng Health Department’s bid to fight off a High Court judgment that found that negligence by Kalafong Hospital staff caused a newborn’s cerebral palsy, has failed. Baby OM, as the boy is identified in court papers, was born at the hospital west of Pretoria in December 2010. He suffered an injury during the birth process which resulted in cerebral palsy. MM, his mother, sued the Gauteng Health Department at the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) on grounds of negligence and won. But a Pretoria News report says the department took the matter on appeal, where it continued to deny that OM’s injuries were due to negligence. It also aimed to avoid paying out any damages to the child and mother.

However, the SCA has now delivered a blow to the department. In a unanimous judgment penned by Judge Trevor Gorven, the court ruled the department liable for the injury baby OM suffered. After hearing from four neonatology, obstetrics, and gynecology experts, Gorven found that the mother proved on a balance of probabilities that the hospital personnel were negligent by not attending to her timeously after admission for labour. ‘What emerged without challenge was that, on admission to the hospital, Ms. M was a high-risk patient,’ Gorven pointed out. ‘The known reasons for this were twofold. By then, the ruptured membranes had endured for a prolonged period, and she was HIV-positive. The latter is a risk factor for hypoxia. It is common ground that both of these signaled the need for careful monitoring, inter alia, by way of a cardiotocograph. This measures foetal heart patterns. The appeal is dismissed with costs, including the costs of two counsel, wherever so employed,’ the judge said.

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