The Gauteng Health Department has received 157 new summonses in the last year which claim R1.6 billion for medical negligence.
This information is disclosed in a presentation by the department at a meeting of the Gauteng Legislature’s Health Committee.
According to the department, medical-legal litigation continues to increase and “extraordinary measures must be taken to prevent a possible collapse of the health care system.”
The department also identifies the legal attachment of funds as “a huge challenge to the financial sustainability of the department” as they “diminish the ability of the department to render health services to patients as it is obliged to do in terms of section 27 of the Constitution.”
The department has been refused extra funding to pay for adverse judgements which is why its own funds are attached by creditors.
The department acknowledges that “the root cause of all medico-legal litigation is negligence which occurs in the hospitals and clinics.”
It is distressing that every year hundreds of patients suffer horribly because of avoidable medical negligence in Gauteng public hospitals.
I am alarmed that negligence claims are increasing rather than decreasing, which highlights the continuing failure to fix the deep-rooted problems in this department.
Our hospitals urgently need better management, the filling of staff vacancies, and proper equipment, especially in maternity units where most of the court cases arise because of babies injured at birth.