Curator for handicapped young girl

A child who was left severely physically and mentally handicapped due, at least in part, to the negligence of health department staff at two major provincial hospitals will have her affairs managed by a curator after being paid out more than R3-million in damages.

The Grahamstown High Court ruled last week that the girl, now nine years old, had suffered permanent mental and physical defects and would be incapable of ever managing her own affairs.

Her mother indicated to the court that she also did not feel qualified to manage and invest the money in a way to make it stretch to meet the child’s medical and other needs for her entire life.

The child may not be identified due to her youth and disability.

The provincial Department of Health took responsibility for about 25% of the damages – estimated at more than R12-million – and agreed to pay out R3-million.

Stellenbosch University neonatal expert Professor Johan Smith painted a dire picture of negligence in the examination, monitoring, management and treatment of mother and child’s condition before, during and after the birth.

The child’s story says much about the woeful state of the provincial public health system.

Her saga began at Victoria Hospital in Alice where an obstetric expert says the staff plotted the size of the foetus incorrectly in prenatal examinations and missed that she was severely growth restricted.

The girl weighed just 1.7kg at birth, meaning her health was already severely compromised.

Smith found that the staff at both Victoria Hospital and at Cecilia Makiwane, where she was transferred three days later, were seriously negligent.

She is now a permanent quadriplegic who suffers from spastic cerebral palsy.

Her mother must deal with a child who cannot eat or drink by herself or in any way care for herself and has no control over any bodily functions.

Port Elizabeth attorney Morne Struwig, whose practice specialises in cases like this, was appointed curator bonis to take care of the child’s financial affairs.

Grahamstown attorney Mark Nettelton appeared for the mother and child in the Grahamstown High Court.

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