Sri Lankan wins lawsuit against UK’s National Health Service | Daily News

Sri Lankan wins lawsuit against UK’s National Health Service

King George Hospital.
King George Hospital.

A Sri Lankan refugee who could not speak English, had won a legal battle against the UK's National Health Service (NHS), after her child was brain damaged after hospital staff did not explain the importance of feeding a newborn.

Nilujan Rajatheepan was in good condition when he was delivered by caesarean section at King George Hospital in Goodmayes, Essex, in July, 2009. His parents are Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka and his mother, Sinthiya, was 21 when Nilujan was born and spoke only very few words of English.

When the community midwife visited the family after the birth, Nilujan was pale and lethargic, having not been fed for more than 15 hours.

His hypoglycemic state resulted in brain injuries. Nilujan, now eight, has cerebral palsy with impaired physical and cognitive function.

On Friday in London, Judge McKenna ruled that the Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Foundation Trust was liable.

He ruled the midwives had failed to hire an interpreter, in order to tell her to feed her baby. The eight-year-old is currently in line for a multi-million-pound NHS compensation due to the negligence of the midwives in failing to tackle the language barrier.

Judge McKenna said medics at King George Hospital were responsible for “effectively ignoring” Sinthiya Rajatheepan’s concerns about her baby.

Because she only knew a few basic words of English, she was never given proper instructions about how to feed her son.

The mother and baby were discharged home too early and, due to poor feeding, Nilujan suffered irreversible brain damage, the judge added.

Rajatheepan, now 29, and her husband Sivarajah, came to Britain from Sir Lanka as refugees in 2008.

The judge said the young mother was “certainly unable to understand anything but the simplest of instructions” and only when accompanied by hand gestures.

He added the brain damage her son suffered was “caused as a result of poor feeding.”

Midwives were adamant that they were accustomed to encountering patients with language difficulties and had properly instructed Rajatheepan how to feed her baby.

But, the judge said, “The overwhelming weight of evidence, is that Rajatheepan had little ability with the English language.

He added, “However, the unfortunate reality is that Rajatheepan did not, in fact, receive any instructions on how to feed her newborn son properly.

“Furthermore, she did not receive any instructions on what to look out for and what to do if feeding was unsuccessful,” the judge said, adding that because of the language barrier, she “did not and could not reasonably, have been expected to have understood” the advice she was given.

Judge McKenna said that she was anxious that Nilujan was crying continuously, but her attempts to draw attention to this matter, had been ignored.

The ward had been busy and Rajatheepan of Lavender Place, Ilford, had a propensity simply to smile at people when she caught their eye, he said; she had, albeit timidly, approached the midwive’s station in a bid to draw attention to her concerns, but was ignored.

The judge said the midwives had given her false reassurance by repeating the mantra that it was “normal” for new born baby’s to cry.

The hospital’s midwifery team should have contacted the NHS Language Line for help, or called for an interpreter, he ruled.

The judge added, “The reality is that no one ever, in fact, gave Rajatheepan a clear and understandable explanation of the importance of feeding.

Because of the language barrier, she had been unable to communicate her concerns to hospital staff, of which the end result was that Rajatheepan was discharged home too early. Had she been kept in hospital overnight, Nilujan would have escaped injury, Judge McKenna said.

“Under the circumstances, I would enter judgment in favour of the claimant, with damages to be assessed,” the judge concluded.

Nilujan’s NHS compensation award has yet to be assessed, but is likely to be a multi-million-pound sum, given the extent of his disabilities.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust Midwifery Director Wendy Matthews said, “We would like to apologise again to Nilujan and the Rajatheepan family and express our sincere sympathies to them.”

“We are considering the judgment and the implications of the judge’s ruling in this case. Although we have made improvements since this incident occurred in 2009, we will take the opportunity to review it closely and see if there are any more lessons about our post-natal care that we can learn,” she added.

(The Telegraph)


 

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