Department of health spending millions on negligence claims

Department of health spending millions on negligence claims

Multimillion-rand negligence claims against the Department of Health have increased nine-fold since 2013, according to Stellenbosch University professor Ethelwynn Stellenberg.

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Stellenberg warned that increasing claims of medical negligence could deter young people from pursing medical careers (File photo)
Stellenberg warned that increasing claims of medical negligence could deter young people from pursing medical careers (File photo)

“Malpractice litigation will be the demise of health care and services,” said Stellenberg speaking at the opening of the Africa Health conference in Midrand north of Johannesburg yesterday. “We are just spending way to much money paying for something we should be getting right in the first place.”

According to Stellenberg, government’s highest pay-out for medical negligence to date occurred in 2012 when government paid R24 million to one person.

This is roughly the cost of on-going, year-long renovations to the Block JJ Clinic in Soshanguve north of Pretoria.

She added that costly litigation could discourage young doctors from practicing for fear of being sued.

“Young people will steer away from medicine because they are afraid of being sued,” added Stellenberg who was elected by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to the Board of the newly established Office of Health Standards Compliance (OHSC) in February 2014.

The office recently acted on complaints regarding the Eastern Cape’s Holy Cross Hospital and found that the facility failed to meet basic health standards. It also noted that equipment was poorly maintained and that some drugs in the pharmacy had expired.

While the Office of Health Standards cannot enforce the recommendations it makes to facilities like Holy Cross Hospital, it can be an important tool for patients, according to OHSC Chairman Lizo Mazwai.

“The Office of Health Standards, will be making interventions and recommendation to the ministry, we do not have the power to enforce anything, but this is a very powerful tool that patients can use,” Mazwai told Health-e News.

He also said that the office may move to make patient complaints public.

“If these facilities can see that they are being shamed, they can enforce change,” he added. “We want to empower the users of public health services.”– Health- News