By Jack Bloom MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:
Legal claims against the Gauteng Health Department have soared from R8.9 billion to R13.1 billion from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015.
This disturbing information is contained in the Department’s latest Annual Report which was tabled in the Gauteng Legislature last week on Friday.
Most of the increase is due to Medico-legal claims which rise from R6.566 billion to R10.1 billion.
Civil claims went up from R855 million to R1.502 billion.
Claims from the premature termination of contracts remain at R1.508 billion.
According to the department, the civil claims include an amount of R1.263 billion owing to the National Health Laboratory Service. It is listed as a contingent liability as the investigation into NHLS billing irregularities is still ongoing, and it may be offset by a possible NHLS debt to the department of R1.6 billion.
It is important to note that the enormous R10.1 billion medico-legal claim arising from alleged medical negligence is a maximum potential liability that is unlikely to be ordered by the courts. Some of the claims may be frivolous or not stand up to scrutiny. Nevertheless, the huge jump in the past year is of great concern.
The department has been paying on average about R200 million every year for medical negligence in terms of court settlements.
I hope that the department adheres to its announced intention to upgrade its litigation strategy, including negotiating fair settlements with claimants instead of fighting every case in court.
Determined efforts are needed to eliminate poor hospital conditions that give rise to negligence claims.