Claims cost Health department dearly

2015-05-27 06:00
DR BENNY MALAKOANE, the MEC for Health in the Free State.

Mlungisi Louw

DR BENNY MALAKOANE, the MEC for Health in the Free State. Photo: Mlungisi Louw

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THE Free State MEC for Health, Dr Benny Malakoane, revealed that his department was facing medical negligence claims totalling R703 million, arising from lawsuits that had been filed from 2004 to March 2015.

He spoke on Tuesday, 19 May, at the department’s provincial headquarters, Bophelo House in Bloemfontein, where he addressed the media about the adverse challenges facing the Department of Health.

Malakoane said the majority of lawsuit cases in the Free State were against two hospitals in Bloemfontein, the Universitas Academic Hospital and the Pelonomi Regional Hospital.

Marcus Malokomme, Universitas’s chief executive officer, said the reason these hospitals had the highest number of lawsuits was because they were referral hospitals dealing with complicated cases.

He said the highest lawsuit claims were against the paediatrics and orthopaedics wards.

Justice Finger, senior legal advisor of the department, said in the past three financial years the department had paid out more than R18 million in concluded cases.

According to the department, 11 cases had been concluded during the past three years of the 377 claims lodged over the past three financial years.

Malakoane indicated that the money spent on litigation had had grave consequences for the department, and added that the lawsuit money could have been used to fund other essential needs of the department.

An influx of patients, overcrowding, understaffing at public health-care facilities and the negative attitude of some personnel were cited as possible contributors to the lawsuits.

Malakoane said the department intended to claim damages of settled claims from implicated personnel. He added that litigation was handled by state attorneys and the complainants.

He said the department only became involved after cases had been concluded.

“When cases have been concluded, the department then conducts its own internal processes to establish who was at fault in the case where the courts have found the department guilty of medical negligence,” Malakoane said.

Mariette Pittaway, DA member of the provincial legislature, reacted with dismay.

“The DA has long raised concerns that the Free State Department of Health is in crisis. It is unfortunate that the staggering number of malpractice claims prove the extent of the crisis,” Pittaway said.

“Malakoane claims some cases date from 2004. It is a shame that it has taken up to 11 years to resolve medical malpractice cases.”

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