Cape Town – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has promised to investigate the actions of lawyers who are suing provincial departments of health for billions of rand.
This follows complaints by provincial departments to the joint committees on health and appropriations in Parliament.
Motsoaledi’s spokesperson Joe Maila said on Sunday the minister would address the matter urgently. Motsoaledi was aware of the large lawsuits against the provincial departments by lawyers, he said.
The National Treasury told Parliament last week that medical claims against the state had increased from R28 billion to R43bn, with Gauteng bearing the biggest litigation claim – R14bn.
Claims in KwaZulu-Natal amounted to R10bn, while the Eastern Cape is facing litigation of R5bn.
Provinces even accused lawyers of colluding with staff members to lodge claims, accusing some lawyers of having gone to healthcare facilities and early childhood development centres to look for children with cerebral palsy to sue the provincial departments.
Maila said Motsoaledi would ensure the issue was resolved as a matter of urgency. “We are aware of these kinds of things. The minister convened a medico-legal summit last year in order for us to find a solution to these matters, as a country,” he said.
Maila said the lawsuits were not restricted to the public sector, as the private sector was also being sued. This had forced doctors working in the private sector to take out large insurance policies.
“The sad part is that they are litigating specialists out of practice. For example, no one wants to work as an obstetrician,” he noted.
They would want to sort out these issues as soon as possible, said Maila. He said the department was working around the clock to ensure the problem was attended to and addressed.
In ensuring spurious claims were not made, Maila said it was important that hospitals did not allow files to go missing.
Chairperson of the portfolio committee on health Lindelwa Dunjwa said last week that she had heard of cases where files of patients were stolen and given to the unscrupulous lawyers.
This allegation was repeated by provincial MECs who appeared before Parliament.
ANC MP Sibongile Manana said she knew of cases in which lawyers were struck off the roll for stealing files of patients when she was MEC for health in Mpumalanga.
Members of Parliament said it was clear that the Health Department was being targeted because the tap at the Road Accident Fund had been turned off.
They said they would not allow the department to be turned into a milking cow for unscrupulous lawyers.