Health department to 'get facts' after woman gave birth to 'decapitated' baby

26 March 2019 - 17:39 By Iavan Pijoos
A woman is reportedly going to sue the Gauteng health department after she gave birth to a "decapitated" baby. File photo.
A woman is reportedly going to sue the Gauteng health department after she gave birth to a "decapitated" baby. File photo.
Image: 123RF/ Maksym Topchii

The Gauteng health department said on Tuesday that it had dispatched the provincial patients' safety team to a hospital to investigate how a woman gave birth to a "decapitated" baby.

Department spokesperson Lesemang Matuka said the team was sent to Tambo Memorial Hospital in Boksburg to thoroughly investigate the matter and to "obtain facts from the medical team which was involved in this incident".

"Upon completion of the investigation, the department will communicate the outcomes and the recommendations. If necessary, disciplinary measures will be instituted.

"The hospital continues to offer counselling support to the patient and her family to help them deal with this unfortunate incident," Matuka said.

The case at the hospital sent shock waves across the country this week, but an incident which had a similar tragic ending was recorded in the UK five years ago.

On Monday, eNCA reported that a 19-year-old woman delivered her baby at the Boksburg hospital, but only the baby's head came out. 

eNCA said the woman spent 24 hours with the rest of the baby's body inside her.

However, an occurrence with the same tragic ending was reported in the UK back in 2014, when a doctor at Ninewells hospital in Dundee performed the delivery of a baby for a first-time mother on March 24 2014.

According to the Guardian, the baby's head became trapped during the birth and various techniques were tried to free it, but during this his "head became detached from his body".

That baby had died before this happened.

It was reported that a consultant gynaecologist, Vaishnavy Vilvanathan Laxman, failed to perform an emergency cesarean section on a 30-year-old mother.

The Independent reported that the obstetrician opted for a regular delivery, despite the boy being feet-first in the breech position with a prolapsed cord and low heart rate.

At the time, the Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service (MTPS) panel said the only "appropriate course" was a cesarean section.  

The mother was 25 weeks pregnant. The tribunal later cleared Laxman of serious misconduct and said her fitness to practise was not impaired.

According to eNCA, the mother in the Boksburg incident had abdominal pain for a few weeks before she went into labour. During a visit to a general practitioner, it was discovered that something was wrong with the baby and she was advised to go to  hospital.  

The pain persisted, so she went to Tambo Memorial hospital where a scan was done, eNCA said.

The hospital confirmed the baby was abnormal, but said a heartbeat could be heard.

"Three days later, she went into labour. She was pushing, but the baby was not coming out. A doctor came and used forceps to take the baby out," eNCA reported. "That’s when she said she saw the head of her baby without the rest of the body."

Head of obstetrics at Tambo Memorial Hospital, Dr Gilbert Anyetei, said the woman was in labour but the baby’s head was not crowning.

"Normally, when the head is not crowning we assist. We call it assisted delivery. In this particular instance … the head popped out on its own and we tried to see if the rest of the body would follow, but it didn't," Anyetei told eNCA on Monday.

"We decided to take her to theatre to deliver the rest of the body."

On Tuesday morning, hospital CEO Vis Naidoo declined a request for a formal interview, saying the matter was now "sub judice".