Pretoria - Medical experts who assess accident victims for the Road Accident Fund (RAF) following claims say they have been battling to receive payment for their services.
They say the RAF is multi-millions of rand in arrears on these accounts and some are threatening court action.
Mariëtte Minnie-Botbijl, who handles accounts on behalf of about 80 of these experts, including professionals such as orthopaedic and neurosurgeons and clinical psychologists, said it was a nightmare to obtain payment.
She said the RAF owed about R65 million to her clients alone, while there were several hundred experts around the country who had also delivered a service to the RAF.
She said her clients’ accounts were diligently submitted to the fund.
While some accounts were simply ignored, in other instances the RAF paid the law firms directly for the services delivered by the experts who issue reports on behalf of their clients.
But this causes confusion, she said, as the fund does not specify for which expert the payment is made.
An array of experts usually submit reports during one claim, ranging from orthopaedic surgeons to industrial psychologists, all depending on the nature of the victim’s injuries.
According to Minnie-Botbijl, lawyers then often choose which of the experts to remunerate first from the RAF payout, depending on the longest outstanding account and those who complain the most.
“It also happens that payments submitted are already loaded on the fund’s system, ready to be paid, but the actual payment is never done. There is simply no consistency on the part of the RAF regarding payments and we are left in the dark as to how things actually work there.”
Minnie-Botbijl said when Collins Letsoalo took over as chief executive last year, she and other stakeholders held a meeting with him to try to resolve these issues.
“He was very understanding and I was confident that things would change, especially as there was a new person to take charge. But things just remained the same.”
Minnie-Botbijl, who has been handling accounts on behalf of experts for the past 14 years, said one is sent from pillar to post when it comes to issuing accounts and receiving payments.
She said she had on numerous occasions tried to resolve the matter with Letsoalo, but to no avail.
Minnie-Botbijl said red tape at the RAF was also making it very difficult to receive payment for services rendered.
She said these professionals spend a lot of time assessing accident victims – sometimes up to several hours – and writing their medical-legal reports and in some instances these experts have to testify in court.
“They are actually in some cases saving the RAF a lot of money, as they independently assess claimants and give their expert opinions regarding the injuries.”
Minnie-Botbijl said in some cases claims were inflated as injuries were ascribed to accident victims but did not prove to be as severe as claimed.
RAF spokesperson William Maphutha said that while it was true that they had paid some invoices and not others, he could not comment on a blanket accusation of non-payment.
Maphutha said each claim for payment was assessed on an individual basis.