EC Premier, DOH and hospital turn their back on disabled child in Eastern Cape

Issued by Madeleine Hicklin MP – DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Health
14 Apr 2024 in News

In a shocking display of arrogance and a lack of human compassion, the ANC Premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, the Eastern Cape Department of Health, and the Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital in Mdantsane have once again shown vulnerable South Africans just how little the ANC cares about its citizens.

Just hours before it was due to agree to an out-of-court settlement of a medico-legal claim for negligence associated with the birth of a young girl at the Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital, Premier Mabuyane ordered that the proceedings be abruptly ended, the mother evicted from the guesthouse the Eastern Cape Health Department had booked her into for the duration of the settlement negotiations, and the child moved to the Life Esidimeni Centre in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha).

The young girl – whose name is known to the DA, and who has cerebral palsy and suffers from seizures as a result of the allegedly negligence her mother was subjected to which saw her being starved of oxygen during the complicated and prolonged birth process – underwent a surgery in 2021 at the Frere Hospital to insert a feeding tube into her stomach as she was malnourished and not getting sufficient nutrients.

According to a family spokesperson who has called on the DA for assistance, the surgery was not successful, the feeding tube site leaked, causing repeated sores to form on the little girl’s abdomen, and the incision had to be packed with a ‘putty-like substance’ in order to facilitate feeding and to stop the nutrients “from leaking out of the feeding tube”. As evidenced by photographs in the DA’s possession, the incision appears to be infected at the time that the pictures were taken, and the child remains malnourished.

“The Department of Health admitted its mistakes during the child’s birth, and promised to compensate the mother if she agreed to an out-of-court settlement in 2022. Because of her desperation to get justice for her child, and appropriate medical care, the mother agreed to the settlement,” the spokesperson said. “But, on arrival at the settlement hearing with another family member whose command of English was better than hers, Premier [Mabuyane] told the legal team to withdraw from the proceedings because the family member who accompanied the mother was a lawyer. She was also ordered to leave the accommodation that had been arranged for her to stay in, and she was sent home with no settlement, and no means of seeing to the needs of her daughter.”

The little girl was then admitted to the Life Esidimeni Centre in Port Elizabeth – which is an eight-hour round trip from where the family lives in Tshabo in the Eastern Cape. The mother has only been able to visit her daughter once since her admission. This is because she has neither the financial means to pay for her fare to and from the hospital in Gqeberha, nor for a place to stay while visiting her child.

Pictures of the child’s wounds were only sent to the mother on one occasion, despite numerous requests for medical updates, and current pictures of the little girl are taken “from the chest up”. She still appears malnourished and is very thin – and the mother is desperate to have her daughter home with her.

In December 2023 it was revealed that the Eastern Cape Health Department has lost R3.7 billion to medico-legal claims in the past eight years. Last year, during its audit of the Department of Health, the Auditor-General noted that the total amount of medico-legal claims stood at R77-billion in March 2023 – with the highest province being claimed against is the Eastern Cape (EC), which stood at above R30-billion.

The DA is demanding justice for this young girl, and for Premier Mabuyane, the Eastern Cape Department of Health, and the Cecilia Makhiwane Hospital in Mdantsane to honour its commitment to upholding the rights of this family, standing by its settlement agreement, and ensuring that appropriate medical care is provided to this child – at a facility within a reasonable distance from the family home.