Ten years after a mother delivered a stillborn baby as a result of negligence by a hospital in Johannesburg‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered the Gauteng health MEC to pay her R100 000 in damages for emotional shock.
Delisile Mbhele claimed that negligence on the part of the medical staff resulted in her baby being stillborn‚ and that as a result of such negligence she suffered damages.
Mbhele was transferred from Zola Clinic to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital as an emergency case due to foetal distress.
On admission she was not treated as an emergency case.
After more than an hour‚ a doctor saw her and ordered a scan to determine detect foetal distress. This also took a long time.
Despite the results of the scan showing foetal distress‚ Mbhele was not attended to promptly and the doctor who had ordered the scan did not follow up on it.
She was not monitored during labour‚ which resulted in her delivering a fresh still birth.
Her ordeal did not end there.
After her unsuccessful delivery‚ Mbhele was taken to a ward with mothers of newborn babies. Some mothers were feeding their babies and others were holding them. Mbhele’s cot was empty.
When Mbhele asked to be moved to another ward and for family to be phoned to take her away from the depressing environment‚ she was ignored for about eight hours.
When she had to identify the baby at the mortuary she collapsed. No one else could identify the dead body of her child. As a result‚ she had to be comforted and “compelled” to identify the child.
Her application to claim for damages was unsuccessful in the high court in Johannesburg.
However‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal found on Friday that the conduct of the medical staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath on August 18 2006 was negligent and that such negligence caused the baby to be stillborn.
In a full bench judgment‚ Judges of Appeal Zukisa Tshiqi and Connie Mocumie found that Mbhele had proven a claim for emotional shock.
They said after the birth of her stillborn baby‚ she was inappropriately taken to the maternity ward where she had to contend with an empty cot.
They said her behaviour months after the death of the baby showed that she had difficulty coping and that she still has not recovered completely.
“For all those reasons we are satisfied that a case was made for a claim for emotional shock‚” Tshiqi and Mocumie said in a judgment‚ where three other judges concurred.