hospital in bad health

DAILON van Greunen is fighting for his life. He was born two months prematurely and is said to have sustained brain damage. In his second week, doctors told his mother Tilana Bouwer that it was only machines that were keeping him alive.

"I asked: 'Doctor, can't we switch off the machines? I don't want to see my child suffer. He's fighting for his life and I can't let him go on like this'," recalls the mother.

Life support was switched off, but two months later Dailon is still hanging on, and Bouwer can't accept that her boy will never recover. She blames the hospital for his brain damage and wants to sue. Hers would be the latest in a series of cases against Dora Nginza Hospital and the Eastern Cape health department.

Three years ago, Carte Blanche reported on Chrissie Botha, who had been awarded R700000 by the court after the hospital "misplaced her baby".

Two years ago, the Cape Times reported that the hospital was in dire straits with a staff shortage of 45 percent, leaving only one nurse to attend 90 patients.

Fred Rank, then head of clinical governance for hospitals, told the National Council of Provinces at the time that in the casualty ward the hospital had two nurses attending to 30 patients, and in the maternity ward two or three midwives attending to about 10 women in labour.

Elize and Gideon Slabber managed to reach an out-of-court settlement with government after now three-year-old Heileze was born mentally and physically handicapped after the hospital failed to perform an emergency Caesarean.

The Slabbers returned to South Africa in 2005 after a stint overseas. Elize went into labour before they had secured their money invested overseas, which meant the young mother had to use Dora Nginza.

"Before I came back I went to a doctor and he gave me the all-clear, everything was normal," says Elize.

The couple was back one month when Elize went into labour. The clinic sister immediately referred her to Dora Nginza for an emergency Caesarean. "When I got there the woman who took my paper just told me to sit in a queue, we were about 20 girls," recalls Elize.

It was three hours before she was examined by a nurse. Next a woman doctor examined her and told her she was two centimetres dilated. The parents-to-be went home and returned to the hospital a couple of hours later, by which time Elize was dilated between seven and eight centimetres. Eventually after 15 minutes, a distressed Elize gave birth on a steel trolley as there were no beds available.

Heileze was whisked away by the nurses. When she eventually saw her baby, Heileze was "fitting", according to Elize. Three days later, the doctor told Elize her baby was brain-damaged and blind. Today, the toddler is cared for by a nurse. Her life expectancy is 15 years at most.

The Slabbers have been awarded R1,8million in an out-of-court settlement. - Health e-news