THE Fiji Court of Appeal has ordered the permanent secretary for Health and the Attorney-General of Fiji to pay $110,660 in compensation to the family of a child who died because of medical negligence.
The Appeals Court upheld a decision of the High Court in Lautoka in December 2020, that ruled there was a case for medical negligence on the part of Ministry of Health’s servants, agents, and employees in the death of the two-year-old Kitione Tiko at the Ba Health Centre.
“It is irrefutable that the surgical team owed a duty of care towards the deceased child, therefore, the conduct of the surgical team requires closer scrutiny,” stated Justice Farzana Jameel in her February 24 ruling.
“Evidence discloses that the anaesthesia team encountered difficulty in inserting the endotracheal (ET) tube due to the swelling of the mouth and around his upper airway. ET tubes for young children come in two sizes.
“A size 3.5mm tube had been inserted into the child’s airway. Defence witness 4 James Auto, chief medical officer under cross examination agreed that the correct tube size for a baby aged 2 was 4-5mm and not 3.55mm.
“Even though this was not the correct size, it appears that it was the only tube that had been able to pass through his airway indicating difficulty in visualising his upper airway.
“It is clear as per evidence that, the deceased was oxygen deprived in the lungs while in the operating theatre. “The ET tube ideally ought to have assisted with breathing during surgery.
“Oxygen deprivity may have occurred due to a tube smaller in size being inserted, even though it may have been unavoidable, due to the lack of visualisation.
“I find that the failure to ascertain the integrity and functionality of the tube pre-surgery and the failure to detect and substitute the leaking tube during surgery do not conform to a reasonable standard of care expected of medical professionals.
“Therefore, I conclude that the agents and employees of the appellant are culpable of negligence towards the deceased child.” Justice Jameel also ordered $5000 be paid to Mr Tiko in court costs.