Hospital negligent in treating baby

Hospital negligent in treating baby. Picture: File

Hospital negligent in treating baby. Picture: File

Published Feb 26, 2024


The parents of a now 12-year-old whose foot was severely deformed after a drip was left unchecked for 10 hours on the limb after birth, have succeeded in their claim against the Gauteng MEC.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, found that the staff at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria were negligent for not checking-up on the drip for 10 hours.

It is not known how much the parents are claiming, but Judge Noluntu Bam ordered that the Gauteng health authority pay for damages that can be proven.

If the parties fail to settle on the amount, the matter will be back in court at a later stage to hear the evidence of the parents and experts regarding the scale of damages.

The parents’ claim was based on allegations that the staff at the hospital were negligent in their treatment of the then baby.

She was born prematurely with an extremely low birth weight. To keep her alive, she had to be fed intravenously. The child was injured on her right foot when the intravenous line (drip) went into the tissue in her foot.

As a result, the tissue around her right foot necrosed (died), and left the child with a permanent injury. Now aged 12, she suffers from a severe and debilitating deformity of the right foot. It is projected that she would need treatment in the future.

The parents said the nurses and doctors who treated the baby owed a duty of care towards her, to ensure that the treatment and management met the standard reasonably expected of a provincial hospital caring for prematurely born neonates.

In their opinion this was not done, as they had left the drip unchecked for 10 hours.

The medical staff denied negligence and said that extravasation of intravenous lines in neonates was fairly common because of their small blood vessels, and absent soft tissue support.

While they did admitted that the child suffered permanent injuries, they argued that such injuries did not flow from their negligence but from the well-known risk posed by intravenous lines.

The parents accepted the staff’s argument that in order to keep the baby alive and given her extremely low birth weight, she had to be fed intravenously. Their only complaint was that the drip was never checked for 10 hours.

The hospital records showed that on at least six occasions before the incident in question, the drip fluid was leaking. On each of those occasions, the hospital staff had intervened timeously and changed the drip to an alternative site.

On the night the foot was injured, the records showed that the drip site was last monitored at 21h00. It was again checked the next morning at 07h00.

Thus, for a period of 10 hours, the drip site was not monitored. When the nurses checked in the morning, they found that the baby’s foot had gone black

A medical expert testified that it was critical for hospital staff to regularly monitor the drip site in order to intervene timeously in the event of things going wrong with the drip. Two medical experts agreed that the child’s injuries were caused by the substandard treatment administered by the medical staff at the hospital.

Judge Bam concluded that the care afforded to the baby was indeed substandard and the cause of the child’s injuries.

Pretoria News

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