KwaZulu-Natal DOH facing R800m in maternal health care negligence claims

Makhosazana Mdlalose, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

A parliamentary reply to the Democratic Alliance has revealed that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (DOH) is facing almost R1 billion worth of medical negligence law suits for the 2012/13 financial year with 108 claims totalling R800 million within the maternal health sector.

The DA is appalled by these figures.  The sheer volume of claims raises serious concerns over the quality of medical care on offer to patients who are completely reliant on state health care.  The scale of the problem also points to a major failure in terms of medical supervision.

We also note the discrepancy between the Auditor-General’s finding of R1.9billion and that provided by KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, in his October parliamentary reply.

According to the response Prince Mshiyeni hospital is facing the largest number of claims with 16 –  for an amount of R100million – closely followed by the province’s “flagship” hospital, Addington which has 15 cases totalling R40 million.  The hospital facing the second highest amount in claims is King Edward VIII with R60 million being claimed in 10 lawsuits.

Other KZN hospitals and the number of claims they face are as follows;

Hospital                                                                               Number of claims during 2012/13 financial year

Mahatma Gandhi                                                             8

Madadeni                                                                           8

Port Shepstone                                                                  7

Northdale                                                                           7

Edendale                                                                             7

Murchison                                                                          6

Greys                                                                                    5

Several other hospitals with fewer than 5 claims are also noted in the reply.

It is unacceptable that the number of claims against the DOH is escalating year after year.  In May 2013, the DA expressed concern over the number of claims against the DOH which had ballooned from R600 million in 2011/12 to the current figure.

The MEC needs to give this matter his urgent attention and ensure that an urgent investigation into those hospitals that have been red-flagged takes place.

He also needs to send out a clear message to DOH officials that, rather than expending energy on defending lawsuits, the department needs to address the root cause of the problem.   Measures must also be taken to introduce ongoing training of health care workers with a strong focus on medical ethics.