The Gauteng Department of Health is yet to pay R25.4 million in negligence damages to one family, a month after the court ordered it to. Picture:Nokuthula Mbatha
Johannesburg – More than a month after the Gauteng Department of Health was ordered to pay R25.4 million in negligence damages to one family, the payments have yet to be made.

And because of the daily penalty interest of R7 139, the department will have to pay about an additional R500 000.

At the beginning of February, the high court in Joburg ordered the department to pay the fine after medical negligence that led to a baby being born with brain damage.

By late last month, the department had still not made the payment, and the sheriff of the court paid the department offices a visit.

However, the sheriff decided not to collect furniture as he was promised the money would be paid.

Weeks later, that promise has yet to be fulfilled.

Adivhaho Mukwevho, 5, has severe cerebral palsy because the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital failed to do an emergency caesarean during her birth in December 2011.

Her life expectancy was reduced to 28 years, and she is in need of urgent medical and paramedical treatment.

Half a decade after her birth and months after the high court verdict, her mother is still waiting to be paid.

DA Gauteng spokesperson on health Jack Bloom said that the Health Department needed to improve its litigation strategy.

“They lose virtually all of their cases,” he said. “The department should negotiate upfront and come to a settlement so these cases don’t drag on for years. The courts are time-consuming and expensive and distressing for all parties.”

Khutso Rabothata, media liaison for the department, said it had engaged two private law firms to conduct a legal audit to understand the escalation in costs, and that the department was exploring mediation and alternative dispute resolution. 

“We have finalised a number of matters through mediation and saved the department litigation costs,” he said.

Bloom also argued the department should set aside money in the budget for negligence cases.

Rabothata said that lack of budgeting was part of why the fines hadn’t been paid.

“The problem we’re having is if we pay the money, it’ll come from budgets that should be going towards helping patients, so paying the money could make healthcare suffer,” he said.

“Payments to settle negligence cases should not result in patient care and safety being compromised.”

However, he argued that the department was unable to budget for negligence as it was “considered to be fruitless and wasteful expenditure and therefore budgeting for negligence is in contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.”

Bloom said the government’s failure to pay was an embarrassment.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside the office and seen them passing out furniture, computers, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “Government must respect the law like everybody else.”

The Star