THE lack of proper accommodation is what prevents professionals from coming to work at Greytown Hospital, among other issues.This was just one of the findings that emerged during a recent oversight visit conducted by members of the health portfolio committee at Greytown Hospital. Staff shortages is another key challenge the hospital faces, as well as a lawsuit of R11 million for a medical negligence claim from a patient for an operation that was unsuccessful. Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MPL Honourable Les Govender said: “Qualified doctors, nurses and IT specialists are not keen to work [at the hospital] because of the lack of accommodation. Young professionals need suitable accommodation. “Water supply challenges are due to the lack of infrastructure maintenance; even though the dams are full, the infrastructure needs maintenance and repairs.”Govender confirmed that, during their visit at the health facility, they were told that the hospital is facing a medical negligence claim. “We were told that there were high litigation costs of R11 million plus R846 000 in legal fees. The Department of Health is aware of the legal costs,” Govender said. Spokesperson for the KZN Department of Health Noluthando Nkosi said the matter refers to a case from 2012. “It should be noted that requests by a law firm for access to twelve files does not equate to lost legal cases. Therefore, the focus on Greytown Hospital as a ‘unique’ case is misplaced,” said the spokesperson. Nkosi said the increase in medico-legal claims in the department is a “global phenomenon that remains a serious concern for the KZN Department of Health”.“It puts severe pressure on our already inadequate budget. “During the 2018/2019 financial year, a total of 450 new medico-legal claims were received, which increased the total number of medico-legal cases to above 2 600,” Nkosi said. The department also admitted that the money that is used to pay for legal claims should have been spent on treating patients and improving health outcomes in the province. According to the department, one of the contributing factors to the increased rate of medico-legal claims is the unethical practice of touting “by certain unscrupulous law firms.” Nkosi said: “In fact, one of the law firms that the department is investigating is based in Johannesburg, and has, on its own, lodged a whopping 96 claims against the department in just two months, which is highly suspicious.“The department has also drawn strength from recent case law which empowers it not to settle cases where continued care for an affected patient can be proven. “As part of these efforts to reduce our medico-legal bill, we are currently establishing a directorate which will be responsible for investigating every potential claim, and each and every medico-legal claim that is lodged against the department. This unit will be made up of professionals who have medical and legal expertise, which will empower them to advise the department on the correct course of action to follow and the quantum of damages to be awarded where necessary.” The department said it was in the process of establishing a panel of lawyers that are going to assist and represent them in court.The Gazette established that the department has written a letter to the office of the KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala seeking support for the full staffing of specialised rehabilitative healthcare centres to assist children who are born with Cerebral Palsy and other ailments. “For now, these facilities will be located at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital; Durban Children’s Hospital; Northdale Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre; and at Phoenix Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre. These centres will offer the following services, among others: occupational therapists, physiotherapists, audio therapists, speech therapists, and dentists. This will assist in reducing the costs awarded against the department, in relation to future medical expenses,” Nkosi said.