OPPOSITION parties are demanding more details on why the Eastern Cape Health Department had to fork out almost R50-million in three years for claims of negligence and botched surgeries at state hospitals.

Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana released the figures at the Bhisho Legislature on Wednesday in response to a question from COPE’s Mbulelo Ntenjwa.

Gqobana said in 2009 the department paid out R19.8-million and a further R10.3-million last year. Eight months into this year, the department has almost doubled last year’s claims and has thus far paid out R19.5-million.

The matter was not debated in the Legislature. Speaking afterwards, opposition MPLs said an investigation was needed into which hospitals were responsible for the department incurring such high and unnecessary costs, and for what cases.

Oversight committee member John Cupido, from the DA, expressed shock at the figures, saying it pointed to a deep crisis in the department.

“[This] points to incompetence on the part of surgical staff or maybe even their support staff.”

Cupido said the figures were scary, and also showed the Health Department was not serious about overseeing operations at hospitals.

“It means your life is at stake when you go to a public hospital. If proper oversight was done by the department, you could pick up where these problems were and act to fix them.” Ntenjwa also expressed unhappiness. “These amounts are too much, but we were suspicious. It shows there’s something wrong, and we should fear the worst,” said Ntenjwa.

“Right now it seems there is no section in that department that is not dysfunctional.”


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