Gauteng health dept faces seizure of assets for negligence

2013-06-27 10:18

The Gauteng health department has until July 13 to pay an interim negligence claim to a woman whose leg was amputated, or the sheriff of the court will seize its assets, her lawyer has said.

“In every single case I have had against the State, I have to resort to these measures. Never once have they paid on a court order,” said attorney Gary Austin today.

He confirmed a report in The Times that the sheriff of the court attached the assets of the province’s health department after it ignored an April court order to pay R750 000 to medical negligence victim Queen Mpinga.

The claim related to treatment at the Natalspruit and Pholosong hospitals in 2006.

On June 13, the sheriff catalogued 400 computers, 600 desks, and 800 chairs at the department’s head office.

In terms of the State Liability Act, it can seize the items on July 13, if the department does not pay Mpinga by then.

Austin told Sapa Mpinga went to hospital with a small wound on her ankle.

When she returned at a later date, instead of being admitted, she was sent home with advice like “put Betadine on it”.

Negligence had already been established by the High Court in Johannesburg, said Austin.

An interim payment was usually made because such cases took a long time to finalise. The court was expected to rule on the final amount in October.

Austin said poor administration was to blame for the payment delay.

“You shouldn’t have to resort to these measures. Morally, you should pay the money straight away.”

Mpinga needed the money for a prosthesis and for ongoing medical care.

However, health department spokesman Chris Maxon said the department had to wait for the paperwork to come from the court. It was only received in June, and the payment then had to be processed.

“On our side everything has been approved. It’s a matter of days,” said Maxon.

“She will definitely be paid by then [July 13].”

He said the department was concerned about the slow pace at which cases were settled.

Civil claims took on average years to settle and put people in “a lot of pain”.

The department was restructuring its processing centre.

Democratic Alliance spokesman Jack Bloom described the delay as “shameful”.

“The department has a bad history of late payments for court orders. It should respect the court and pay promptly, as Mpinga needs the money urgently,” he said.

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