Speech on the State Liability Amendment Bill [B16–2018]
Speech by ACDP MP, Steve Swart

Issued by the ACDP Parliamentary Media Office

Medical malpractice during child birth is a critical issue deserving attention

Dec 5, 2023

House Chair, this is a very significant day.

We as the ACDP opposed this bill in the previous Parliament and in this bill.

Now, the main motivation was the financial strain caused by medical claims against the Department of Health.

What I want to focus on — dating back to when we had the public hearings in the previous Parliament — are the childbirth incidence of medical health. We found it totally unacceptable that the state would not want to compensate poor women who have complications with childbirth resulting in children either dying or being born with Cerebral Palsy and are then expected to rely on those same public health facilities for treatment for the rest of the lives of those poor children. Absolutely disgraceful!

Let me give you an example. In Sifumba vs the MEC for Health in the Eastern Cape, the mother sought and was denied emergency medical treatment. The hospital staff failed to monitor the baby’s heart at 30 minute intervals, failed to detect or take precautions against foetal distress, failed to transfer it to another hospital, failed to perform a caesarian section. The child’s brain injury resulted in Cerebral Palsy and the court held that the defendant was negligent and granted relief.

Now, the state says no. That poor women is not entitled to relief. It must be staggered over the rest of the life of that child which would even cost more, according to the submission of the Legal Resources Centre during our public hearings.

What is rather urgently needed are steps to address the systemic failures and shortfalls in the public health sector facilities provided to women for childbirth in order to guarantee the rights of the woman.

So, what Parliament is doing today by rejecting this bill is, in fact, protecting the rights of women. We urge the Department of Health to rather investigate those shortfalls that are causing women complications with obstetrics, causing babies to die, causing babies to be born with Cerebral Palsy and other injuries. Those are very important, rather than trying to limit those women from claiming as a result of these injuries.

Of course, the bill also wants to prescribe to the courts. There’s another challenge there of the separation of powers, and the actuaries gave evidence to say that, over the long run, it will cost more to the state — so how can this be cost-saving?

The ACDP believes that during the 16 days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Children, we submit that medical malpractice during childbirth is a critical issue that deserves our attention.

We welcome this report and we welcome the rejection of this bill.

I thank you.

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