Mom sues for N$500k over newborn's death

09 July 2019 | Justice

A mother who claims her newborn baby died because of medical negligence at the Engela state hospital in October 2017 is suing the health ministry for more than half a million dollars in damages.

Peelina Shiwovanhu Nghikumwa (40) states in her particulars of claim that she was admitted to the Engela State Hospital on 20 October 2017, but that staff refused to provide her with assistance or medical attention while she was in labour.

Instead, she claims she was “mocked by the personnel for the pain she was enduring and was ordered to 'walk off' the pain.”

She claims that she had to deliver the baby on her own because the hospital staff refused to attend to her.

The court papers state the baby “literally fell from the plaintiff's womb, hitting the floor and as a result died instantaneously.”

The baby's death was widely reported in October 2017.

Namibian Sun reported at the time that Nghikumwa planned to sue the health ministry for her daughter's death, noting that she had proof that the baby had been born alive and died from head injuries shortly thereafter.

At the time she said the night nurses on duty at the maternity ward had ignored her cries for help.

She told Namibian Sun that the nurses only responded after her baby had fallen onto the floor.

In November 2017, Namibian Sun confirmed that an inquest into the baby's death had been opened by the Ohangwena police at the behest of senior hospital management who wished the matter to be investigated.

Nghikumwa, who is being assisted by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) in her High Court application, accuses the nurses, health workers and medical practitioners of having acted negligently and of having failed to ensure the safe delivery of her child.

She claims that staff at the Engela State Hospital should have foreseen that their failure to act would lead to damage to the patient and her baby.

She is claiming N$500 000 in damages for the emotional and psychological shock and trauma, inconvenience and discomfort she suffered.

She is also claiming damages amounting to N$15 000 for the baby's funeral expenses.

Nghikumwa is claiming an additional N$50 000 for future medical expenses in relation to psychological assessments and counselling.

Her legal team charges that the hospital staff failed in several ways to provide the necessary care Nghikumwa had the right to receive and expect. The hospital is accused of failing to provide life-saving intervention in an emergency situation, failing to provide effective patient advocacy to enable the patient to receive the healthcare she needed, and failing to establish and maintain an environment in which the physical and mental health of the patient was promoted.

The case was postponed to 9 September for a mediation referral and the filing of further case papers. Corinna van Wyk of the LAC is acting on behalf of Nghikumwa, while the government, which has filed a notice to defend, is represented by Lindrowski Tibinyane, a government attorney. High Court Judge Herman Oosthuizen is presiding.





JANA-MARI SMITH