THE Eastern Cape government has paid out more than R500-million in litigation and settlements in the past three fiscal years, the biggest culprit being the Department of Health.
Poor patient monitoring, late referrals and long waits for operations were among the reasons that saw the province’s Department of Health incur more than R170- million in legal costs since 2012-13.
In 2014-15, the provincial government spent R105-million on litigation and R96-million on settlements, arising mainly from the Department of Health.
This is according to a written reply to a question from DA MPL Bobby Stevenson in the Eastern Cape legislature. It revealed that for the past three fiscal years, the province has forked out R296-million on litigation and R208-million in settlements.
The Department of Health’s spend was followed by the Department of Education at more than R17-million in litigation in 2014-15, and the Department of Transport at R4.8-million.
In the written reply, the Department of Health said settlement amounts paid out during the period were mostly from the areas of obstetrics and orthopedics. In obstetrics cases, claims related mainly to brain damage in babies during birth as a result of poor monitoring to determine foetal distress, which led to late referrals to the next level of care.
In orthopedics, claims arose from long waits for patients to be operated on, often resulting in deformity that could render them unfit to work.
Department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the provincial authority was concerned about lawyers touting, and alluded to “collusion between some law firms and hospital staff . . . patient files are stolen and used in court”.