More than R1bn paid in medical negligence payouts by Gauteng Health - DA

2017-05-23 18:56
Jack Bloom (DA)

Jack Bloom (DA)

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng health department has paid out more than R1bn to settle 185 medical negligence cases since January 2015, the Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday.

"This is one of the shock disclosures by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature," MPL Jack Bloom told reporters during a briefing in Johannesburg.

Ramokgopa also revealed that there were 51 more cases which were currently before the court. Those cases were expected to claim some R414m.

Bloom said while payouts and future claims were large, no amount of money can compensate for the agony and misery endured by victims of medical neglect.

Brain-damaged babies made up 76% of the claims, which amounted to R769m for 50 claimants. Most of these claims had come from Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, which had the highest number of claims and payouts.

"Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had by far the most negligence cases, which resulted in R514m paid to 44 claimants," Bloom said.

List of injuries

The hospital with the second highest number of claims was Steve Biko Academic Hospital which paid R15.1m for 14 cases, followed by the Natalspruit Hospital which came in third with a pay-out of R54m for 12 cases.

Tembisa Hospital - which paid out R43.5m and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital which paid out R26.2m - both had 10 cases.

Five of the largest payouts made over that period were for brain damage or cerebral palsy caused by brain damage. Four of those payments were made by Chris Hani Baragwanath, a total of R89.2m.

Bloom said in the four cases at Chris Hani Baragwanath, the initial amount that had been claimed was R5m - a much lower amount than what was eventually paid out based on the estimated costs of lifetime care.

"Something is seriously wrong at Chris Hani, something needs to be done very urgently to ensure that babies are delivered safely at that hospital," Bloom said.

A list of other cases which were paid out included the death of a mother and her baby, causing blindness in a baby, negligence resulting in a patient unable to walk and use his neck muscle, negligence for operating wrongly on the spine which led to a patient being confined to a wheelchair, the loss of an eye during surgery, a patient being burnt by hot water in a bathroom by nursing staff, the amputation of an arm and leg, the amputation of a finger and negligence resulting in a patient not being able to conceive again, to name a few.

Bloom said this was a "long and sad catalogue of injuries" inflicted on patients who depended on the public hospitals for care.

"We need to know from authorities, what are you planning to do to stop this avalanche? Hospitals should be places where you go to get cured, not for injuries," he said.

Broader crisis

The department's annual report for 2016/17 had set aside R13.4bn for potential medico-legal liability from claims.

The pay-outs were taking a growing chunk of the department's budget which would be better spent making sure hospitals provided quality care.

Maternity and neonatal departments also needed improving, to prevent the risk of brain damage in babies before, during or after their birth.

Bloom said that Ramokgopa said in her reply that to date, none of the staff members involved in the cases had been disciplined.

"Errant doctors should always be referred to the Health Professions Council and nurses to the Nursing Council."

The high occurrence of medical negligence was part of a broader crisis in the health sector which needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency, Bloom said.

He said mistakes were bound to be high if there was a shortage of staff and if key equipment was broken or missing.

However, better management and accountability was essential to curbing these mistakes, as well as adequate staffing and equipment, said Bloom.


Read more on:    da  |  johannesburg  |  healthcare

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