Durban — The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal is implementing a number of strategic interventions to contain the costs of medico-legal claims.
This comes after the Auditor-General (AG) reported in Parliament that KZN, Eastern Cape and Gauteng face more lawsuits than other provinces.
The department was sued for R125 billion, and the claims for KZN are amounting to R31.7 billion.
The spokesperson for the department Ntokozo Maphisa said their interventions included improving the clinical care of patients, immediate convening of redress meetings with affected families at facility level, the establishment of centres of excellence for patient rehabilitation, which has been done, as well as capacitation of staff with prerequisite training; mediation to resolve cases swiftly; and establishing an internal panel of experts to review cases, which has been done.
“Contingent liability may not always give an accurate or reliable reflection of the actual medico-legal bill, as it indicates possible financial obligation depending on whether some uncertain future events occur,” said Maphisa.
He added that all of these and more are part of the ongoing concerted efforts to manage medico-legal claims for the department. Moreover, IOL reported that the acting business leader in the office of the auditor-general, Thabelo Musisinyani, said negligence claims have been increasing.
“This number is not decreasing when you look at the amounts paid out over the years. The sector is doing something about this, but they are facing challenges. We are concerned that there are provinces with a number of claims,” said Musisinyani.
Furthermore, it emerged that when it came to paying out claims, provincial health departments do not set aside money for these claims. They are forced to divert funds from other functions to settle claims.
The IFP health spokesperson in the province, Ncamisile Nkwanyana, accused the department of failing to address the medico-legal claims.
“For several years, the department has been talking about addressing medico-legal claims, yet nothing has happened. Medico-legal claims take a large chunk of the budget, and this unfunded mandate is a cause for serious concern,” she said.
Nkwanyana said it was clear that the R50.7 billion budget allocated to the department for the 2023/2024 financial year will be adversely impacted by medico-legal claims. She said the IFP would like to see the department address issues like staff shortages in hospitals and clinics, maintain, repair, and rebuild ageing infrastructure and build more clinics closer to the people.
“As the IFP, we concur. There must be consequence management for those who incur these claims, and provinces must implement strategies to minimise future claims,” she said.
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