Health department owes Soweto mom R23m

Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. / KABELO MOKOENA
Dr Gwen Ramokgopa. / KABELO MOKOENA

A Soweto mother has been waiting for two years for R23-million compensation from the Gauteng health department after staff at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital botched her son's birth, causing severe disability.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect her son's identity, said due to the prolonged labour and failure to perform a caesarean section, her seven-year-old was born severely disabled with "brain damage, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy and other complications" in November 2009.

In her affidavit filed at the Constitutional Court to fight Gauteng health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa's bid not to pay about R20-million, the woman said her case was that "relevant medical doctors and nurses employed by the department had negligently and wrongfully caused [my son's] injuries and disability".

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The woman told the apex court that due to missing work "too frequently" to help with her son's medicolegal appointments she lost her R4000-a-month job as a receptionist in 2015.

South Gauteng High Court Judge Ellem Francis awarded her about R23.2-million in damages, including nearly R20-million for future hospital, medical and related expenses in July 2015.

The rest was R1.2-million for pain and suffering, lost of amenities of life and disability, R385000 future loss of earnings and over R1.6-million to set up a trust to administer the boy's estate.

However, the department's legal advisor Mhawukelwa Khoza said Ramokgopa "pleaded that she be allowed to make a written undertaking to pay service providers that will render medical services to the minor child in respect of the injuries he sustained".

Ramokgopa asked not to be directed to pay compensation in the form of money as Francis ordered.

She claimed paying nearly R20-million for future hospital, medical and related expenses would deprive others of much needed medical care.

The department lost its appeal at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in November, and is heading to the Constitutional Court later this month.

The SCA found the relief sought by the department was unsustainable due to the "once and for all" rule, which means that a plaintiff (the woman and/or her son in this case) is not allowed to bring more than one damages claim for the same cause of action.

The appeal court said common law would have to be developed by the abolition of the "once and for all" rule and not merely its modification. But the departments insisted that if the law does not allow any other form of compensation then it should be developed to make such an allowance.

The matter would be heard by the Constitutional Court on August 17.

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