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SA: North West’s health MEC to pay Zim mother R17m for child brain-damaged at birth due to hospital staff negligence

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North West’s health MEC will have to pay a mother of a now 10-year-old child nearly R17.3 million in respect of a claim for her child’s future medical expenses after she was born with cerebral palsy.

The North West High Court sitting in Mafikeng, earlier found that the staff at the hospital where the child was born were negligent which resulted in an order that the health authority was 100% liable for the damages she had suffered.

It is not known how much the MEC had to pay in general and other damages, as this was earlier decided on. But the court now ruled on the amount due to the mother with regard to her daughter’s future medical expenses.

While counsel for the MEC asked for a slightly lesser amount to be paid given the fact that the mother is a Zimbabwean citizen, who at any time could return to her country of origin, the court said the Bill of Rights guarantees equal protection of the law to everyone.

The court said there is no proof for the suggestion that a foreign national is entitled to less protection of the law while in the Republic.

The amount of damages towards medical expenses to be paid by the MEC will be controlled by a trust. a portion of the amount awarded will go towards setting up the trust.

The mother testified that she is a Zimbabwean national who came to South Africa in 2005. She moved to North West in 2009 and worked as a domestic worker until August, 2023. She left employment to take maternity leave for the birth of her second child.

On her return, her services were terminated. She has been doing “piece jobs” once a week as a domestic worker. The remainder of the week, she looks after her children. They also rely on income from her husband’s employment as a cleaner at a private company.

The mother said in 2010 she obtained her Zimbabwean Exemption Permit which she renewed up until 2021, when her last permit expired. Thereafter, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi granted an extension to all Zimbabwean Exemption Permit holders until June 30, this year.

The plaintiff said she and her husband intend to remain in the country and raise their two children here.

She further testified that she lives in a shack with her husband and their children. As to their conditions of living, she explained that the shack they live in has electricity. Their source of water is a communal tap situated 200m outside their home and they use an outside pit toilet.

Her future plans and wishes for her daughter are to enrol her at a special school for handicapped children in Brits. She had already done her research on this, as this is of paramount importance to her, the mother told the court.

She said if a suitable home could be erected for her child, it would be ideal if it were to be erected in the Brits area. This, she said, would enable the child to retain relationships with her friends.

Counsel for the MEC recommended that as the family presently lives in a shack, they should be provided with suitable adjustable accommodation with a room for a caregiver.