Man sues over pregnant wife’s death
Before 9am on January 30, 2005, a pregnant Nomglobo Elvina arrived at the obstetrics unit of the Site B Clinic in Khayelitsha with abdominal pain. She told her neighbor, Nondomisa Jida, that she thought she was going to die. Less than 13 hours later she gave birth to a stillborn baby, then died. This was evidence in the Western Cape High Court yesterday in an action her husband and eldest daughter instituted against the Western Cape MEC Theuns Botha for R1.5 million in damages.
Her husband, Mlamu Arthur Siyatha, says the Site B Clinic as well as the Michael Mapongwana Clinic, which the couple also consulted later that day, were grossly negligent for failing to assist his wife. He is suing in his personal capacity and as father of three minor children.
His wife suffered anoxia (a decrease in oxygen levels) and hypovolaemia (a decrease in blood volume). In court yesterday Jida, a qualified nurse, was the first witness called to testify before Judge Pat Gamble. She told the court she was a nursing student at the time and lived in the same neighborhood as the Siyathas.
She arrived home from night shift at Cape Town Medical Clinic at about 8am and when her aunt told her Siyatha needed medical assistance. When she arrived at their home, she saw the pregnant woman, in pain, on the floor of the dining room. “She was moving around and she was not stable… you could see she was suffering,” Jida told the court. She accompanied the Siyathas to the Site B Clinic and, after for waiting about 10 minutes, they asked staff whether anyone intended to assist them.
“They (The nurses) gathered around us and said we came with an attitude,” she said. The nursing staff shouted at them and asked whether Siyatha had been booked into the clinic. They also noticed that Jida was wearing a nurse’s uniform and asked where she worked. When she answered them, they told her that the clinic was not a private hospital and that Siyatha had to wait her turn. “They said they were use to seeing mothers arrive with their babies hanging out, and it was not an emergency,” Jida testified, adding that security officials chased her and Mlamu Siyatha outside and told them to wait there. Eventually, one of the patients came outside and told them Siyatha was on the floor and that someone should attend to her. When Jida went inside, Siyatha told her that she was dying. Staff later told them they should go to the Michael Mapongwana Clinic, or seek private assistance.
They said there were no ambulances available to transport Siyatha to any other facility. Jida said private transport was arranged and, as they drove from the clinic, they passed the surgery of a general practitioner. The GP, I Gilexwa, told her she was not in labour, gave her medicine and told her to return the next day. Mlamu Siyatha is also suing the GP. Siyatha went home but later started bleeding, Jida said. An ambulance was summoned to take her to Michael Mapongwana Clinic. Jida said she did not accompany the couple there, but went to Tygerberg Hospital later, when she learnt Siyatha had been transferred there. Before 10pm, the baby was stillborn and Siyatha was dead.
However, in responding papers, the MEC denied that she was five months pregnant, or that she experienced symptoms of placental abruption. He added that even if she had such symptoms, she would not allow any of the nursing staff to touch her or examine her. She insisted on seeing a particular doctor, who was not present at the time, she added.
The loss suffered was therefore not a result of the clinic’s negligence, but rather of Siyatha’s refusal to allow staff to examine her, he alleged. The MEC added that Siyatha had herself chosen to seek the assistance of a private doctor. The case continues.