The Gauteng Department of Health has recorded less than 1% of adverse events in its public health facilities from March 2018 to June 2019.
"The total amount of patients seen in the period 1 April 2018, to 31 March 2019, was 21 079 658. Of these, the recorded serious adverse events were approximately 0.057% (12 027).
"The total amount of patients seen in the period 1 April 2019 to 30 June 2019 was 1 695 345. Of these the recorded serious adverse events were approximately 0.0016% (2696)," MEC Bandile Masuku told News24 on Thursday.
"Adverse events" refers to incidents which risk patient safety, but could not be foreseen or necessarily avoided, according to the MEC.
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These occurred in facilities such as Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Helen Joseph Hospital, Tambo Memorial Hospital, Jubilee Hospital and Tshwane Rehabilitation Centre.
"It's not necessarily negligence, it is harm that is caused by treatment or any form of procedure that we will normally institute. It can normally not only relate to medicine, but vaccinations that we give that can cause harm or damage.
"It is something that we cannot avoid because it is how you react to a drug. They go through different phases of being tested, upon its registration... there will be side effects, you will get rare side effects that will happen after 1 000,001 people get that medicine. It's an issue of risk and benefit," Masuku said.
Adverse events also speak to medical procedures that may cause side effects that put the patient's safety at risk.
In January 2018, there were reportedly 2 317 cases against the department with a contingency liability of R21bn – R18bn of which was for medical negligence.
In addition, the start of the 2017/18 financial year saw the department payout over R400m in medical negligence cases – most of which were for maternal, neonatal and surgical negligence, City Press earlier reported.
The MEC, however, does not understand adverse events to be equivalent to medical negligence as "nobody goes out of their way to harm someone".
"We do not expect that in a healthy environment and we are guided by the ethics that we must act in the benefit of the patient. In cases where there [are] overt signs of negligence then we will take it through the disciplinary process," he said.
The less than 1% of adverse events recorded in period 1 - translating to 12 027 out of 21 079 658 patients - is still a concern for the MEC due to the "gross figure".
"It's a gross figure because I think it's something we look forward to being able to reduce, therefore we review, research and endeavour to have them have fewer side-effects and cause less adverse events.
"The numbers that we see in Gauteng are minuscule, but we are putting in systems and measures to reduce these figures," Masuku added.
The MEC believes that the number of adverse events can be reduced through public health literacy where the patient becomes more informed about risks involved in any form of medication/procedure.
"All citizens must know and be able to read the catalogue of medicine, read the adverse effects and make an informed decision," he concluded.
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