Call to ban lawyers’ touts at hospitals

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng Health Department has called for the barring of lawyer’s agents touting for business at hospitals.

This comes after an East Rand man laid a complaint with Pholosong Hospital over his intellectually challenged nephew who was involved in a hit-and-run accident and is a patient at the hospital.

Peter Maleka accused staff at the hospital of pointing out his nephew, Tebogo, to an agent and giving him his confidential information.

The agent then took pictures of Tebogo and made him sign a document giving a lawyer permission to claim from the Road Accident Fund on his behalf.

Maleka claims that no one at the hospital informed him of this as they should have because Tebogo’s state meant that he could not communicate with the agent.

He said that when he tried to put in a claim with the fund, the hospital could not find a document in Tebogo’s file that was needed for the claim.

Maleka said he found the document in the possession of the agent when he contacted the family, looking for Tebogo’s ID. He said he did not understand how the agent was able to get the document.

“Tebogo is intellectually challenged and cannot even speak properly, so there is no way the agent would have been able to communicate with him nor understand him.

“How did he even get access to him? Take his pictures and also make him sign the documents?

“People don’t get what’s due to them because these agents take advantage of people, especially ones like Tebogo,” Maleka said.

He said the agent had told him that he was only trying to help. Maleka was not convinced.

The agent told him that there was nothing sinister in what he was doing, which was to ascertain whether Tebogo qualified for a claim.

If he did, the agent would seek the permission of the family before claiming with the fund.

The agent said he had not taken Tebogo’s document from the hospital, but had merely photographed it and printed it.

“I’m a qualified consultant and go to hospitals looking for people involved in accidents. The client does not have to pay money out of their pockets and when the claim is successful, the attorney gets 25 percent,” he said.

A spokesman for the Gauteng Department of Health, Simon Zwane, said agents needed to be barred from touting for business in the hospital.

He said the hospital had become aware of the issue only when Maleka lodged a formal complaint about the missing document.

“We find it unacceptable that agents could have access to patients in a hospital without anybody noticing,” he said.

Road Accident Fund spokeswoman Jacquie Sobantu said the fund had detected 3 160 fraudulent files with a claim value of R461 758 646 in the 2011/12 financial year.

Sobantu said they had registered 1 255 cases with the police and 502 people had been arrested, resulting in 244 convictions.

She said no one was allowed to claim on behalf of another person except when the injured person was a minor.

“In that case, only the mother or father, or [a] legal custodian can claim. If the person is mentally handicapped… a curator must claim.

“We would request an unabridged birth certificate to ensure that the claimant is the biological mother or father and, where there is a curator, we need the court appointment of same.

“There is definitely collusion between hospital clerks and touts or attorneys [when it comes to fraudulent claims],” Sobantu said.

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