Tuesday, June 22, 2021

GPH backed against the wall in malpractice suit

The case in which media personality Kagiso Malepa and his wife, Wally Malepa are demanding P16million from Gaborone Private Hospital (GPH) as compensation for negligence and malpractice continued before the Gaborone High Court on Friday when the two parties agreed to pay some costs and summon the medical doctor who was involved in the matter.

The couple filed the lawsuit early this year after their baby died a few hours after birth due to “severe hypoxic eschemic ancephalopathy and uterine rupture.” However, GPH did not respond to the couple’s application on time, prompting them to apply for a default judgement. It was then that that the hospital’s attorney, Daniel Swabi of Osei-Ofei Swabi Attorneys rushed to file a condonation application before Justice Tshepo Motswagole. The couple opposed the application, saying GPH had deliberately delayed its response as it has always been aware of the suit.

“A diligent and prudent hospital would have immediately referred the matter to its lawyers or insurers. The delay was self created and has not been reasonably explained. All issues that allegedly delayed filing of the plea fall squarely within the control of GPH,” they said. However, on Friday both parties agreed that it would be appropriate for the case to be resolved on its merits. To that extent, the Malepas agreed to withdraw their application for a default judgement while GPH withdrew its application for condonation.

GPH also agreed to pay the costs of the default judgement and condonation applications. On the sides of the marathon suit, pundits have opined that GPH’s move to rope in Dr Baron Matonhodze, the practicing obstetrician and gynaecologist who booked the Malepas for delivery on September 4, was a major breakthrough for the couple as the hospital has previously denied liability and distanced itself from the doctor, saying he was an not an employee but an independent medical practitioner. At the time, Dr Matonhodze’s lawyers, MacRobert Attorneys from South Africa, expressed shock at GPH’s denial of liability.

In response to GPH’s disclaimer of liability, the Malepas said they were never told on admission to the hospital that Dr Matonhodze was an independent doctor. Notwithstanding their disclaimer, they said, GPH went ahead to claim fees worth over P50, 000 for Dr Matonhodze’s professional services. “GPH’s claim that Dr Matonhodze was independent is not supported by any document whatsoever. It’s clear that he was operating from GPH as part of its staff. We approached GPH to be treated by its appointees and we knew nothing of the terms of their employment,” said the Malepas.

With regards to third party procedures, order 17 of the High Court places the onus on GPH to state why they have summoned Dr Matonhodze; and whether or not he will indemnify the hospital in the lawsuit. The Malepas narrate how they had an unremarkable pregnancy until they failed to deliver on the expected date, 31st August, 2014. After consultation, they were sceptical about Dr Matonhodze’s recommendation for delivery by induction, as they had sired two healthy babies through normal delivery. However, the doctor insisted and booked them for delivery by induction at GPH’s labour ward on September 8.

“The admission was done by a nurse at 0630hours and Dr Matonhodze was not on hand to explain what method would be used to induce delivery. The doctor only met with us for a few minutes at 1500hrs,” said the couple. Mrs Malepa was given oral medication of misoprostol for two hour intervals from 630hrs until 1630hrs. Problems started at 1800hrs when she started experiencing severe abdominal pains and was administered with pethidine. By 1830hrs, she was in severe pain and was whisked into theatre for caesarean section. Hospital records show that upon incision of the mother’s womb the baby was already out in the abdomen through a middle rupture of the uterus. The caesarean section was initiated due to severe foetal distress and the baby had suffered severe birth asphyxia.

The baby did not survive and was certified dead on September 9th at about 1650hrs. The final diagnosis was that the baby died because of severe hypoxic eschemic ancephalopathy and uterine rupture. In their claim, the couple accuse GPH of negligence and recklessness. They fault the hospital staff for failing to conduct vaginal examination of the patient upon admission to establish her readiness for delivery and insist that it was wrong for the patient to be admitted by a nurse instead of Dr Matonhodze. They added that GPH failed to inform them of the various methods of induction to enable them to make an informed choice.

“No measurement of the cervix was done to confirm its flexibility and/or dilation. Dr Matonhodze had no effective and proper plan for managing labour and delivery. There was no proper assessment of the patient and the baby from admission until emergency operation,” they said.

They blame misoprostol for causing rupture of the uterus and severe foetal distress and insist that Dr Matonhodze ought to have known that the size of the baby was too big to allow for natural birth. The couple also insist that caesarean section instead of induction was the appropriate method of delivery from the moment of admission. They added that the diagnosis of severe foetal distress was made when the uterus had long ruptured and the baby was already in the abdomen, which was indicative of gross failure to monitor, assess and review both the patient and the baby.

“The death of our child has caused us extreme emotional pain and trauma. The baby’s mother may never be able to conceive again; if she does it will be extremely dangerous and life threatening,” said the couple. The Malepas are represented by Omphemetse Motumise of Moeletsi and Motumise attorneys.

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