R1.1 million negligence award exposes Gauteng health to more liability
21 February 2021
The Gauteng Health Department’s potential medical liability has increased enormously as a result of a pathbreaking judgement that has awarded R1.1 million damages to the mother of a two-year-old girl who died after complications suffered at a public hospital.
Courts have previously not ordered payouts after the death of a child patient as pain and suffering was not usually recognised, and no loss of earnings capacity can be calculated if the patient was not a breadwinner.
According to a recent judgement by Pretoria High Court Acting Judge Brad Wanless, the Natalspruit and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals were negligent by failing to speedily diagnose the child’s brain condition and treat her properly.
Judge Wanless commented on the mother’s trauma as she had to face her little daughter’s constant crying and inability to eat. He also recognised that “No amount of monetary compensation will ever be enough to alleviate a parent’s loss of a child. Particularly so when the child is so young.”
In other cases of brain damage of a child, the compensation ordered was mostly for the cost of future care and medical expenses.
According to the Gauteng Health Department’s latest Annual Report, the value of claims for medical-legal was R21.2 billion, with new claims for R1.9 billion made in the preceding year.
Every year the Department pays about R300 million a year for court-ordered negligence payments, mostly for babies who were brain-damaged at birth but still alive.
There is extra liability now as a court could order damages to the parent of a baby or child that died because of medical negligence.
This latest judgement gives added urgency for the Department to radically improve medical treatment to minimise the huge suffering caused by medical mistakes in public hospitals.
Issued by Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health, 20 February 2021