Another judgment for a blind child against the Health Authorities

The Pretoria News published this story about parents who claim on behalf of their blind child, who was born prematurely.  They have filed a lawsuit against the MEC for Health, Gauteng, who will have to pay a great deal of money for the costs that both the little boy and his parents will incur throughout his lifetime.

Blindness & legal claims

Unfortunately these lawsuits are becoming all too frequent.  Our firm has, in just the first five months of this year, secured liability admissions from the Gauteng Health Department in 4 cases involving prematurely born blind children, and another 3 against the KZN Health Department.  We have a number of these cases still due to be heard throughout the rest of this year.

Unfortunately the problem is not limited to public healthcare; despite the fact that guidelines for the prevention of this kind of blindness have been around for over 20 years, some private hospitals and doctors treat prem babies without due care.

Parents need to be informed of the need for their children to see an ophthalmologist within 4-6 weeks of their premature baby’s birth.  Had this happened in young Blake’s case, he would probably never have been blind.


Pretoria News, May 19 2015. 
By Zelda Venter

Parents claim R16m after birth mess up

Read the original article here.

Pretoria – The parents of Blake Froneman, of Haddon in Joburg, are claiming more than R16.6 million in damages from the Gauteng Health MEC as the toddler is now blind, allegedly due to receiving too much oxygen at birth four years ago.

His mother, Rose-Lee Watson, a schoolteacher, and father Shaun Froneman, said in papers in the High Court in Pretoria that their child’s blindness is solely due to the negligence of the nurses and doctors at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital or the staff at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.

The child was treated at both hospitals before he was eventually discharged, about a month after birth.

Judge Ronel Tolmay on Monday ruled the health authorities were 100 percent liable for the damages the parents can prove their son had suffered.

The amount due to them will be calculated at a later stage.

Rose-Lee was admitted to the Baragwanath Hospital on January 2, 2011, while she was 30 weeks’ pregnant. She experienced uterine contractions and the doctor who examined her, assessed the weight of her unborn baby to be about 3kg and within the range of a full term baby.

He subsequently ordered that she be allowed to proceed with labour.

When Blake was born, he weighed 1.61kg and he was in respiratory distress. The boy had to be admitted to the intensive care unit, where he was placed in an incubator and received oxygen.

He was then transferred to the Johannesburg Hospital where further oxygen was administered for several weeks.

This was only discontinued the day before he was discharged.

No tests were done at this stage to establish whether he suffered from the condition known as retinopathy of prematurity, nor were his parents told that this condition was prevalent in premature babies who received an excessive concentration of oxygen.

Soon after their child’s discharge, his parents realised that their son was blind. They are blaming the nurses and doctors for this.

The couple say the doctor who allowed the mother to give birth, incorrectly assessed the unborn child to weigh 3kg, while he weighed a fraction of that.

Birth should have been stalled, it was said, until the unborn child had developed further.

It was also said the staff and doctors failed to properly monitor the child after birth, which allowed retinopathy of prematurity to develop.

According to court papers, the doctors should have told the parents of the possibility of retinopathy of prematurity and advised the parents to, within six weeks, have the child tested for this.

The parents said neither hospital had written protocols in place for managing newborn babies being ventilated with oxygen. If they did have such protocols, they were clearly not following them, the court was told.

The parents are, among others, claiming for family therapy and training on how to manage Blake’s disability. They are also claiming R600 000 with which to buy and train guide dogs for their son in future. It was stated that he would need about 12 guide dogs during his lifetime.

The R600 000 claimed for this, also made provision for the guide dogs’ food and veterinary care.

The family also claimed money for altering their home to make provision for their child’s blindness and to employ a full time caregiver to give them a hand with the toddler.


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