Over the last two-and-a half years the Health Department in the Eastern Cape has either lost of settled out of court 83 cases.  This has resulted in the department paying out R59 million in compensation to victims of poor health care.

This emerged in answer to a question for oral reply in the Legislature today by the MEC for Health, Sicelo Gqobana.   For the reply click here.

In the 2009/10 year the department paid out a total of R19 851 million and in 2010/11 a total of R16 397 million.  What is of concern is that we are only halfway through the 2011/12 year and the department has paid out R22 713 million.  It also needs to be borne in mind that the majority of victims are poor people who often don’t have access to legal services.

The fact that the amount of compensation is increasing is a reflection of poor service levels in the Health Department.  Disciplinary action needs to be taken where negligence has been the cause.  Given the urgent need to improve our health facilities we cannot afford to waste R58 million on poor service.

I welcome the MEC’s response to a follow-up question where he said steps would be taken to dismiss health workers involved in negligence and the Health Council would be approached to have them struck off the roll.

People need to have full confidence in our health care system and know that when they enter a hospital or call for an ambulance that they will receive the care that they deserve.  Those responsible for neglecting to treat patients with due care and dignity must be dealt with.  Where people are sick they are at their most vulnerable and our health care system cannot add a further burden to their suffering by inhumane treatment.  They need to be treated with compassion and respect.

Poor people have no choice but to rely on the public health system.  They deserve better and the DA will continue to fight for improvements to the system.