More accurate data was needed to deal with the Gauteng health department’s medical negligence bill of more than R20 billion, according to Democratic Alliance MPL Jack Bloom.
This after the department announced it had shaved R2 billion off its original figure of R22 billion in medical-legal cases, following a data-cleaning drive which struck cases off its database which were duplicates, or no longer applicable.
The department was embarking on a drive to save billions more in claim payouts by getting patients and families to opt for mediation as a quicker way to claim for medical negligence, rather than civil claims.
But Bloom said although mediation was a good alternative, this method would not necessarily save the department from a significant proportion of claims against it. Last week, the department boasted that in the space of two months towards the end of last year, it managed to save an estimated R10 million through mediation.
This excluded possible legal costs and costs of acquiring medical experts that could have been incurred through litigation had these cases not been mediated.
“I fully agree with mediation as a better option,” said Bloom.
“But the figure they have saved is enormous and I don’t think it is realistic to say you have done six mediations and successfully solved the problem.
“We also need to clear up why the national department’s figure for Gauteng was R29 billion when they are claiming it is R21 billion.
“We need accurate figures to depict the true extent of the liability.”
Department spokesperson Philani Mhlungu said: “The mediation process has proven to be one of the most successful factors in reducing cases of medical negligence and reducing the contingent liability.
“It has cost-effective tools and can be implemented at any stage, during and/or before the litigation process. It is less acrimonious and helps to improve the patient experience in the health system.”
One of the mediations in December last year, which the department won, created common law in that the department could now offer future medical expenses as opposed to monetary compensation. The department said it was also focused on internal issues at hospitals, which it identified as the root causes of the issues of medical-legal claims.