Motsoaledi: Negligence claims affect healthcare, hike doctors’ fees

2015-03-09 20:47

Johannesburg - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has warned that South Africa is facing a major crisis of doctors, in particular obstetricians and gynaecologists, being reluctant to perform surgeries in fear of medical negligence lawsuits.

“Some gynaecologists are refusing to see women who are pregnant because they fear medical negligence claims,” he said.

In the same breath, Motsoaledi lambasted some doctors, lawyers and state employees who collude to defraud the state through bogus medical negligence claims, City Press reported.

Speaking at the Medico Legal Summit in Irene, Centurion, this morning, Motsoaledi warned that the spate of increased medical negligence claims has reached a crisis point where government institutions, such as the Road Accident Fund, had been left bankrupt by litigation.

Motsoaledi also singled out lawyers, branding them as money-grubbing people only intent on lining their pockets instead of having the interest of patients at heart.

Over the past 13 years, the indemnity insurance paid by doctors to protect themselves against medical negligence claims had increased by 573% – which meant that doctors’ fees also increased.

The fear of litigation among doctors, said Motsoaledi, was also causing many in private practice to consider changing their profession even though they have years of experience under their belts.

“People are working in syndicates to achieve their aim which is one – to line their pockets in the name of patients who might have been victims in one way or the other.

“We are aware that these syndicates consist of lawyers and some within the health profession itself to make as much money from the state and other doctors as possible.

“We are aware that members of these syndicates in the various State Attorneys Offices are mismanaging cases deliberately so that the state must lose at all times.

“We are aware that some hospital chief executives are not doing anything to safeguard the welfare of patients but instead deliberately jeopardise the welfare of patients and immediately report to the legal members [lawyers] of these syndicates to start litigation,” said Motsoaledi, adding the he would like to see a chief executive of a hospital arrested for these actions.

He said the outcome of the summit, together with the outcome on the White Paper on the National Health Insurance scheme and the outcome of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s inquiry into the costs of healthcare, would set the tone on the direction the country’s healthcare system will take.

“In fact these three issues … are going to change the health system as we know it today and this all depends on how everyone reacts to the outcome. Unfortunately the change they might bring may be either positive or negative, depending on our attitudes as South Africans,” said Motsoaledi.

The four medical specialities that are targeted the most are obstetrics and gynaecology, neurosurgery, neonatology and orthopaedics.

Indemnity insurance

Dr Graham Howarth from the Medical Profession Society, which offers indemnity insurance for medical professionals, said the annual subscriptions members paid were high and would continue to increase as the amount of claims and claims lodged in medical negligence lawsuits increased.

According to Howarth, obstetricians pay R187 000 a year to get indemnity cover against lawsuits.

Howarth said the largest individual settlements paid by the Medical Profession Society were R6m in 2003, R14m in 2008 and R33m in 2013, and the group was currently defending claims worth R10m, R17m and R80m each.

“We are seeing more and more obscene claims,” said Howarth.

Professor Ames Dhai from the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics said the major reason patients lodged claims was found to be a lack of communication by doctors and nurses with their patients.

She quoted a recent study by the Medical Profession Society that found that 70% of all claims in 2013 were caused by a lack of communication.

Dhai said the problem was compounded by healthcare practitioners who work under stressful conditions.

She cited poor working conditions, lack of resources and staff, low salaries and inadequate security at healthcare facilities as contributing to their stress levels.

“But over the past few decades we’ve seen a gradual decline in health workers caring for their patients. Over the few decades there’s been a change in attitude in practitioners and patients. A huge concern is practitioners who are losing that human touch of putting patients first and caring for them.

There are negative attitudes and health practitioners don’t have time and they don’t understand the process of communication.

“Practitioners are also abusing their roles. Among patients in general, there’s a sense that they are not being cared for. But research shows that patients are less likely to sue if they feel the doctor has communicated to them in a caring manner,” said Dhai.

Motsoaledi said he would soon advertise the post for the country’s first health ombudsman to enforce patient safety and welfare at all healthcare institutions.

The summit, which is being attended by provincial MECs, lawyers, doctors and health sector unions, will conclude its workshop tomorrow with recommendations on how to turn around the sky-rocketing medical negligence claims situation.


  • Akhenaten - 2015-03-09 21:11

    My experience is that, in the hospitals I have been. it was only the doctors who cared but they had no co-operation from the nursing personnel. They are lazy, not properly trained and don't have a clue how to work with sick people. Maybe I'm the only one.

      Michael Steynberg - 2015-03-09 21:53

      Wonder how things will be affected once the Cuba-trained delinquents graduate? Haha...$h*t is hitting the fan in literally ALL departments. Q: How did scientists split the first atom? A: They gave it to a non-caucasian African and said: "Don't break it!" minutes later...kaboom

      Justice Jw Wisan - 2015-03-09 22:11

      Yes you are

      Parry Nyte - 2015-03-10 10:12

      Nurses of today in South Africa (Black) are bone lazy, they are fat and cannot even walk fast let alone run, they love hospital food that comes for free. They are there for the money and free food. Most doctors in hospital are foreigners, local doctors were replaced just like what is happening Eskom. This amounts to lack of poor leadership in South Africa with most having no education or having a crash course certificate which is illegal. The commander in chief ( CIC ) has no or little education and is allowed to run a country is unheard of.

  • DerekMain - 2015-03-09 21:24

    The medical profession is no longer a calling - it's just a money-making racket. How about the doctors refunding their patients if they don't fix the problem.

      Gideon Joubert - 2015-03-09 21:51

      That's a fairly myopic view you have right there. And quite the chip on your shoulder too.

      DerekMain - 2015-03-09 22:00

      Why is that? Any other service provider would! For example, if I take my car for a service and I am not satisfied, I take the car back and get it redone at no charge. Why should doctors be any different? They don't even feel accountable when they have admitted to having erred.

      Gideon Joubert - 2015-03-09 22:04

      Your statement is full of generalisations. Sure, there are unethical medical professionals out there, just like in any other job, but it is hardly the hallmark of the industry. Excessive litigation because of alleged, and not actual, malpractice is making it worse for everybody...including patients.

  • criticallyhonest - 2015-03-09 21:26

    Ethics???? What do you expect when society's leaders and role models set the standards somewhere in the gutter. ......and when the most effect route to success is "ME FIRST"

  • sthembize.zulu - 2015-03-09 21:39

    A health ombudsman is a great idea

      Nico Louw - 2015-03-09 21:58

      Mageba, I suppose as long as it adheres to anc policies ........

  • Lacrimose Wolfe - 2015-03-09 21:44

    A new speech writer's in town! South Africa is facing a major crisis... Seriass? After 20 years of not-a-crisis? Now dear speechwriter(s) and speechifier, pay attention: You wrote those laws. You created the crisis climate and culture

  • Nico Louw - 2015-03-09 21:50

    You my friend and your comrats created the system yet you wants to criticize "your health " system......strange

  • Alex Lourens - 2015-03-09 21:52

    I don't know if anyone noticed but he said lawyers were just looking to put money in their pockets.... now they upset when others do what they have been doing for years.... he probably wants in on the action.

  • Justice Jw Wisan - 2015-03-09 22:10

    Most of us saw that from long ago,as long as these bastards are telling everyone getting or going or admitted to a healthcare facility that they have 'rights to this,have rights to that,people are very clever these days,they are full of tricks these days,watch out

  • Anthony Stewart - 2015-03-09 22:24

    Yes we are facing a major problem The problem is these medical staff are obv incompetent and therefore fear being prosecuted for there negligence

      daniela.krick.5 - 2015-03-10 06:31

      I for one an not incompetent but need insurance! Does having car insurance make you an incompetent driver?

      Deeked De Dose - 2015-08-24 12:36

      Anthony... sadly the ambulance chasers and malpractice attorneys (I can't mention them as they would sue me) work the patients up and promise the earth. Medical science is not an exact science, and there are so many variables, that each and every outcome is slightly different. Suing a doctor that tries their best is like suing the weatherman... However, we should be able to sue/prosecute lawyers that go into frivolous/unnecessary litigation.....

  • Steve Slater - 2015-03-10 06:21

    On the 17\04\2010 i was involved in a head on collision, i was on a motor bike, on the 15\05\2010 the doctors discovered that a broken rib pierced my right lung and sent me for an emergency operation, on the 12\06\2010 they discovered that my T7 and T8 vertebrae was crushed they operated 30\06\2010.i had a second operation on the 15\03\2011 now i am on medical pension YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE

      Deeked De Dose - 2015-08-24 12:41

      Steve, I got shot in the back (apparently an accidental SAPS discharge)which the doctors tried to fix but no luck... I do not blame the doctor for my disability - the fact that the doctor did not pick up a fracture of the T7 and T8 (which are in the area of your rib fracture) just means they did not pick it up... if you want to blame anybody, blame yourself or the car for the injury... THAT WAS NEGLIGENCE...

  • daniela.krick.5 - 2015-03-10 06:30

    May i just interject a correction on what Graeme Howarth said: indemnity for obstetricians is not just R187000 but actually R450000! Beware ladies... Soon there will be no private obstetricians left willing to look after you!

  • M.Sc Stratman - 2015-03-10 07:15

    If the ANC left politics out of the education, healthcare, electricity, SAA, etc. None of this would be happening or be an issue. Doctors do need insurance, even the competent ones, as things do go wrong sometime...they are just human. The problem comes in when the balance is weighted to the incompetent side due to political and educational meddling, and then you throw into the mix the institutionalising of allowing money grabbing and corruption. Like children doing what the parents do, the people do what they see their leaders do. Look for example at the new land claim on Tswane/Pretoria. Claiming a part of one of the major cities in. Country as your own just so jou can make more money, and the government allowing it, would not even be considered anywhere else in the world, yet here it is condoned and in fact encouraged ( and by the way the world is howling in laughter....). So why would getting rich from bogus medical malpractice claims be considered different. It is seen as just another way our wonderful government's policies allow you to grab more money, and then we turn around and blame the doctors. Leave the good ones alone.. they provide a valuable service. (And I don't really care what they much is my life or that of my family worth?) Get rid of the useless ones and the bad imports (read Cubans). Increase the quality of the training at University and for gods sake take the best students and get rid of race-based selection when it comes to deciding who qualifies to study for a doctor. It is the one area where you always want the best, irrespective of colour or creed. Jeesh....bloody politicians....always breaking everything....just like naughty children.... It is time we as a country grow up!!!!

  • Zwide Nxumalo - 2015-03-10 12:42

    @Parry Nyte, thanks for that. My boss was a foreigner only to find out he had never been to med school. He is now in Lesotho as medical manager too.

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