Drugs shelved as liability claims hit R14bn

Ramathub disclosed this in his departmental budget speech for the fiscal year 2022/23 on Thursday. Photo: Joshua Sebola

NEWS


With a staggering R14 billion in medical negligence lawsuits, Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba fears the department may have to misappropriate funds meant to buy drugs to settle the claims.

Ramathub disclosed this in his departmental budget speech for the fiscal year 2022/23 on Thursday.

“While the rise in medical malpractice litigation is a global crisis, as a province we are concerned about the current contingent liability, which is around R14 billion. This has become a threat to the delivery of health care in our province. Ramatuba said:

We performed a root cause analysis which includes a lack of adequate personnel and equipment, poor attitude and inadequate skills.

“But we cannot rule out possible collusion between government employees – whether state attorneys or Department of Health officials – with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and senior advisers,” a- she declared.

Department spokesman Neil Shikwambana later confirmed to City Press that there were 1,500 cases of neglect between 2015/16 and 2021/22.

In 2018/19 the department paid R9 million and in 2019/20 R12 million to settle cases of obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics and cerebral palsy. The highest amount claimed was R55 million related to a case of cerebral palsy.

Ramathuba said it was time for the department to revise the legislation to fill in the gaps.

“In this budget, there is no post that talks about the 14 billion rand, which means we have to take the money for patients’ medicines to pay the bill.” The MEC said:

What is painful is that when we are sued as a government, most of the money goes to the lawyers.

She added that the highest amount awarded for personal damages was R3 million.

“Unfortunately, our real experience is that not even a penny goes to future medical care in some cases because the same children come back to the same public hospitals for care, which amounts to duplication.”

The department’s fair share of the national government’s budget allocation has increased from R23.5 billion in 2021/22 to R22.7 billion in 2022/23, she said.

But thanks to the implementation of the revenue enhancement strategy and with the support of the Provincial Treasury, the department met and exceeded its target of R56 million in the two fiscal years 2018/19 and 2019/20.

“However, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the collection dynamic, resulting in the collection of only 90% of the revenue target for the 2020/21 financial year.

“The impact of the pandemic has further resulted in the reduction of revenue estimates for the 2021/22 financial year and the medium-term expenditure framework.”

Ramathuba said that despite the pandemic, the department was still optimistic that with the revised strategy it would raise R202 million in the 2022/23 financial year. She says:

We will put more effort into achieving this goal as we are aware that it will contribute to the funding of health services in the province.

“Services are always free at primary health care facilities such as clinics, mobile clinics, bridging clinics and health centers.

“Free services have also been extended to all Covid-19 related services for the low income group, the unemployed and those who are not members of medical aid schemes.”

On the National Health Insurance (NHI) system, Ramathuba said the re-engineering of primary health care remains the backbone for the successful implementation of the program.

She said Covid-19 had negatively impacted the department’s goal of providing health care to communities at its clinics.

“Budget cuts [implemented to fund] Covid-19 has aggravated the crisis we are facing. Some of our clinics that operated 24 hours a day [a day] declined due to lack of staff, mainly clinical nurses or at least one professional nurse with midwifery skills. The security of our facilities remains a challenge.


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