The irresponsible court application by the Department of Health to deprive victims who suffered medical malpractice of compensation has thankfully been thwarted by the Makhanda High Court.
National Government must take note and immediately place this bankrupt and financially reckless Health Department under administration in terms of Section 100 of the Constitution before it collapses.
The court ruling means more than R400 million will have to be paid out to victims immediately. This singular ruling accounts for a full 1,5% of the total Health budget that will now have to be paid out in medico-legal claims.
Funds diverted to medico-legal claims will cause the accruals against the Department, which already stood at R4,2 billion at the beginning of this financial year, to balloon to almost R5 billion.
We are vindicated by this judgement, and are further vindicated as the proposal to limit payments to legal representatives of the families was never even entertained. Nobody has the right to limit access to legal recourse.
For several years we have called for the Department of Health to budget for medico-legal claims by extrapolating the cost of such over the past years. This would then allow for better management of the claims annually, and allow better management of the remaining budget so that vastly reduced operational budgets do not hamstring hospitals.
The Premier’s tactic of only filling what he deems are crucial posts has left some of the highly litigated hospitals without the necessary specialist skills required to reduce the incidences of negligence, particularly during childbirth.
At the beginning of this financial year, the Premier’s Provincial Coordinating Management Team, who oversee which posts should be filled, saw fit to fill 560 “Human Resource Development Intern” posts in the province, at a cost of more than R40 million, while critical specialist, doctor and nurses posts remain vacant.
This is simply cadre deployment at its very best – or very worst. The Department could have employed another doctor and two midwives at every one of the twenty highly litigated hospitals for the same money.
The Democratic Alliance will continue to fight for a stable health department that can deliver effective healthcare to all of our citizens.