Medical negligence: Billions paid out in claims

Henry

The Department of Health has paid around R24 billion in medical legal claims over the past four years, due to incidents of medical negligence in state hospitals. In addition, the department had to pay an additional R1.3 billion in legal costs for these cases.

The DA now says that this huge amount once again raises questions about the affordability of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, for which Ramaphosa is apparently still looking for a pen to sign into law.

In response to a parliamentary question, the department said it had paid R23.6 billion in medico-legal claims since January 2020. However, this is not the total amount, with the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape’s figures still to be taken into account.

The Eastern Cape is still verifying its figures, while the Western Cape’s information has yet to be approved by the provincial head of department.

A total of 3,522 claims due to medical negligence have been brought against the department since 2020.

According to the provincial data that is available, KwaZulu-Natal is responsible for the largest part of claims that had to be paid out due to medical negligence. A total of R8.7 billion was paid out due to 779 claims in this province, of which 94 were successful. In the Free State, R2.5 billion was paid out due to 53 successful claims. A total of 651 claims have been filed here.

Limpopo had the most claims (903), but only 30 were successful.

In terms of legal costs, Gauteng paid the most (R634 million).

According to Michele Clarke, a DA MP who put the question to the department, the massive legal claim payouts are another big red flag for the planned NGV scheme. She says that once the NGV is rolled out, these demands, as well as corruption within the sector, are likely to increase.

She says a reason for increasing cases of medical negligence is probably the lack of resources in state hospitals, where many positions are not filled. These conditions, she says, could probably worsen after the health department’s budget was cut this year.