Namibia: Couple Sues State Over Alleged Medical Negligence

A Windhoek couple is suing the health ministry for N$4 million over alleged medical negligence that led to their minor child suffering an irreversible and incurable brain injury.

In their suit, Mwiza Nyambe and Ishmael Mafale claim staff at the Windhoek Central Hospital failed in their duties and negligently handled Nyambe when she was admitted to deliver at the hospital on 25 December 2017.

In their particulars of claim filed in the High Court, the couple stated that while nine months pregnant, Nyambe booked herself in at the Windhoek Central Hospital while complaining of difficulties in breathing.

She was admitted at the hospital, and her vitals were observed and recorded. However, it was detected the foetus was in distress as the heartbeat was not normal. A doctor by the name of Nawa informed Nyambe she would have to deliver by Caesarean section because of the foetus's condition.

Nyambe said the surgery was later cancelled, and she would be induced the following day so that she could give birth naturally.

On 26 December 2017, Nyambe gave birth to a baby boy. During the birth, she noticed that the baby did not cry and was placed in the Prim Unit and on an oxygen machine. The following day, she observed the child having some sort of seizure, and informed the nurses on duty about the baby's condition. They then promised to inform the doctor, but it was not done.

As the child grew, the parents started to notice a delay in his development and in September 2018, the seizures began recurring and becoming more frequent. The baby's condition started to deteriorate, and the couple consulted several specialist doctors, who conducted various tests.

"The MRI scan revealed the child had suffered oxygen deficiency in the womb or during birth, and as such, part of the child's brain cannot develop," said the couple.

They further indicated that their son cannot walk, speak or eat solid foods for the rest of his life.

"The condition of the minor child was caused as a result of the breach of one or more of the afore-pleaded duties, and as a result of the wrongful and negligent conduct of the defendants and the medical personnel afore-pleaded," explained the couple.

They are claiming the medical staff failed to urgently and promptly diagnose Nyambe's condition; remove the baby surgically; delayed in offering an alternative medical solution when it was expected for them to act urgently; and failed to properly assess, diagnose and monitor the condition of the baby at the time he was in the Prim Unit.

The staff's negligence resulted in the baby lacking oxygen to the brain - causing the baby to suffer an irreversible and incurable brain injury.

Thus, the couple believe they are entitled to N$900 000 for emotional and psychological shock and trauma; N$100 0000 for past medical expenses; and N$3 million for future medical and life enhancement expenses for the baby to lead a life as close to normal as possible. Thus, the ministry is liable for N$4 million in total.

The ministry has filed a notice to oppose the suit through their lawyer Neliswa Tjahikika from the Government Attorneys. Sharen Zenda from the Legal Assistance Centre is representing the couple.

The case is scheduled for a case planning conference on 8 June 2021.

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