Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Health Spokesman

A R5 million medical negligence award plus costs was awarded last week in the South Gauteng High Court to 30 year old Nicholaas van Niekerk for brain damage as a result of medical negligence at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital on 19 October 2005.

This will be the fifth huge pay-out this year this year for medical negligence in Gauteng state hospitals, totalling more than R44 million.

The other cases were:

* R11 620 663 for the brain injury suffered by 8-year-old Ntokozo Skhosana at the Far East Rand Hospital on 9 March 2004.

* Prince Khanyi who was brain-damaged at birth at Pholosong Hospital – R9.25 million

* Mr Shabbier Nagel who had a leg amputated when he went for heart surgery at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital – R6.25 million

* Tanya Khumbula who was brain-damaged during birth at the Edenvale Hospital – R12 million.

Mr van Niekerk underwent a routine maxillo -facial procedure during which the endo-tracheal tube became obstructed, as a result of which he suffered cardiac arrest for 4 to 5 minutes, and hypoxia. The merits trial was heard in Sept 2010, and an agreement was reached that he be awarded 80% of his proven damages. The matter was set down for the hearing of the quantum on 3 Oct 2012, and a settlement was reached on 4 October, before the matter proceeded to trial.

Now living in Secunda, van Niekerk suffered extensive brain damage. According to his lawyer Mr Gary Austin, both Plaintiff and Defendants’ experts agreed that he suffered a permanent injury so serious that he is rendered unemployable. The award covers loss of earnings, future medical expenses and general damages for pain and suffering, impairment, loss of the amenities of life, and the like.

The Gauteng Health Department has lost every single medical negligence case in the courts in the last two years.

Unlike in the past, judges are now awarding very large pay-outs for medical negligence. Hospital care must improve radically, otherwise negligence pay-outs will hit the health budget hard.

It is far better that patients get quality treatment rather than go to court for damages that can never remedy the harm done to them by medical negligence.

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