Ministry finally settles negligence claim

28 February 2019 | Health

The health ministry yesterday paid compensation of half a million dollars to a woman who had sued the Katutura state hospital for the death of her child.

The N$500 000 payment formed part of a settlement agreement reached with the ministry in April 2018, more than a year after Laimi Iipinge (40) had sued the ministry for N$6 million. She later reduced her claim to N$2 million.

The claim stemmed from the death of Iipinge's 15-month-old son, Panduleni Pejavelli Nangolo.

The ministry's payment came several months after it had been due.

In January, attorney-general Albert Kawana was informed of the delay in payment by the government attorney handling the case on behalf of the ministry.

“Numerous court orders have been issued by the court to the client to explain in person to the court why the payment has not been made, but to the dismay of the court the client has not complied,” Kawana was informed.

The ministry's executive director, Ben Nangombe, appeared before court on Monday to explain the delay. The payment was made yesterday, Namibian Sun was informed.

The agreement had been reached following a successful mediation process before the case went to trial in February 2018.

Initially, the health ministry had indicated it would defend the action and deny any wrongdoing.

Too late

Iipinge initially sued the ministry for N$6 million in late 2016, but reduced the claim to N$2 million nine months later, when her son died.

Her baby had sustained brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen during labour and was experiencing serious developmental issues, which she claimed was the direct result of medical negligence.

An official report by the ministry of health and social services, compiled by a consultant neurologist at the Windhoek central hospital, stated that Nangolo Panduleni was delivered after a prolonged labour and that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

The document stated that the baby had to be repeatedly resuscitated for about an hour after delivery. He was diagnosed with severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which caused developmental problems, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

During his short life, he was unable to sit, crawl or turn without assistance, and suffered from speech, sight and hearing defects.

Many, if not all, of these health conditions would likely have persisted for the rest of his life.

Iipinge's legal team, headed by lawyer Happie Ntelamo-Matswetu, argued that the claim of N$2 million was based on the medical negligence and incompetence that caused the baby's injuries.

Shortly after Iipinge was admitted to the maternity ward at the Katutura state hospital in December 2015, she was informed that it was “a very slow labour”.

She claimed that she was put on an intravenous drip to help with the contractions, but after that very little attention was paid to her.

“This tragic state of neglect persisted through to the time Iipinge began pushing and was thus giving birth,” her particulars of claim stated. Although she screamed and shouted for assistance, none of the medical staff on duty assisted her, she claimed.

Two hours later, a doctor who happened to pass by heard her cries and rushed to assist her.

After the birth of her son, she immediately noticed he was unwell. She was informed that he had suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and would suffer from severe disability.

Iipinge submitted a doctor's review of the delivery as part of her lawsuit, which supported her claim that no specialists had been called to assist and that she and her baby had not been sufficiently monitored.

The doctor's opinion was that if the baby had been delivered promptly by caesarean section, he would have been healthy.


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