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The IFP, as the Official Opposition in the KZN Legislature, has lamented the lacklustre attitude by the KZN Department of Health in failing to address medico-legal claims.
This comes after the Auditor-General (AG) recently revealed in National Parliament that medical negligence claims have now risen to R125 billion, with KwaZulu-Natal’s medico-legal claims amounting to R31.7 billion.
Where is the money going to come from to pay for these claims? The huge sums being spent clearly indicate that the Department is not implementing measures to prevent medico-legal claims.
For several years the Department has been talking about addressing medico-legal claims, yet nothing has happened. Medico-legal claims take a large chunk of the budget and this unfunded mandate is a cause for serious concern.
Based on the findings of the AG, it is clear that the R50.7 billion budget allocated to the Department of Health for the 2023/2024 financial year will be adversely impacted by medico-legal claims.
These claims take money away from what the IFP would like to see the Health Budget addressing, particularly issues affecting the proper functioning of hospitals and clinics. Budget should instead be invested to:
- Address staff shortages in hospitals and clinics.
- Address the shortage of beds (as has been the case at Northdale Hospital, where patients were allegedly sleeping on the floor and in ambulances).
- Maintain, repair, and rebuild ageing infrastructure.
- Improve security in hospitals and clinics.
- Build more clinics closer to the people.
Speaking at the 2nd Presidential Health Summit held on 4 and 5 May 2023 in Gauteng, President Cyril Ramaphosa's Special Advisor on Social Policy, Prof. Olive Shisana, stated that provinces that showed no progress with managing down accruals and medico-legal claims should not be bailed out.
As the IFP we concur: there must be consequence management for those who incur these claims, and provinces must implement strategies to minimise future claims.
The Department cannot afford to spend billions on medico-legal claims, particularly while hospitals and clinics remain understaffed, patients remain without beds, and infrastructure is falling apart.
The IFP therefore challenges the KZN MEC for Health, Nomagugu Simelane, to present progress reports on her plans to mitigate medico-legal claims. We want to see people contributing to the costs of medical negligence in hospitals and clinics, and be held accountable and made to pay those claims.
Issued by IFP KZN Provincial Spokesperson on Health Ncamisile Nkwanyana