Grieving parents sue health ministry for millions

29 October 2020 | Health

Windhoek • [email protected]

A pair of grieving parents is suing the health ministry for between N$2 million and N$3 million for breach of duties and gross negligence that led to the loss of their unborn baby during a three-day labour nightmare at the Windhoek Central hospital last year.
The multimillion-dollar claim was filed in August at the Windhoek High Court by Helena Kalangula and Wilbard Namene Iyambo, whose child died three days after Kalangula was admitted to hospital on 19 April 2019. Both reside in Windhoek.
The lawsuit claims that instead of providing the necessary care and professional skill and attention, hospital staff failed to take all reasonable steps to “carry out a proper and sufficient physical examination of the patient on 19 April”.
They argue in the suit filed at court that the loss of their unborn baby prior to Kalangula being referred for a caesarean was as a direct result of the staff’s failure to provide the necessary assistance and care, and that the experience of the loss of their baby and lack of assistance caused them pain and emotional trauma, anxiety and “fear of having children in future”.
Kalangula states in court papers that she suffered physical trauma in addition to the emotional wounds she endured.
They claim further that blood tests were sent to an external laboratory despite the hospital being equipped with a laboratory, which caused a delay in the test results being returned in a timeous fashion to assist with the diagnosis of the mother and her unborn baby.
Moreover, the couple claim that a specialist surgeon was not provided within a reasonable time when staff failed to properly diagnose the patient during her prolonged labour, and that she was not provided with the necessary pain medication during the three days she was at the hospital.
Furthermore, the court papers indicate that Kalangula was in labour for three days before she was taken in for caesarean surgery.
“The plaintiff’s plead that the first plaintiff (Kalangula) should have been taken for caesarean surgery on 19 April, alternatively on 20 April and or further early in the day of 21 April.”
The couple have submitted two claims for the court to consider, namely damages amounting to N$1 million arising from the treatment necessary for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and suffering, hospitalisation and associated costs, funeral expenses and other damages.
In an alternative claim, the couple are asking the court to award them more than N$2.8 million in damages for the breach of duty and negligence on the part of hospital staff that led to her unborn child’s death.
Kalangula and Iyambo are filing suit for an additional N$1 million as a remedy for the breach of their constitutional rights, namely their right to found a family in terms of Article 14.
Kadhila Amoomo is acting on behalf of the aggrieved parents while Mkhululi Khupe is acting on behalf of the health ministry who are defending the claim.
High court judge Marlene Tommasi on Tuesday postponed the case to 20 January 2021 for mediation.