by Dr Isak Fritz, MPL – Northern Cape Spokesperson of Health
Date: 20 November 2017
Type: Press Statement
The DA will write to National Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, requesting an urgent intervention in the Northern Cape Department of Health. This comes amidst increasing concerns about sub-standard health care provision to the people of the province, which we believe is being mirrored by growing legal claims against the Northern Cape Health Department.
During last week’s portfolio committee meeting with the Health Department, rising legal claims came under the spotlight. Legal claims against the department have tripled in the past financial year from just under R500 million to close on R1,5 billion at the start of 2017/2018.
Medical negligence claims account for the biggest portion of the claims facing the department, and currently stands at R1,2 billion.
This is deeply concerning as it means that, if all the claims are successful, the department will owe more than a quarter of its annual budget to patients on whom it has inflicted injuries instead of having cured.
It is unlikely that errant doctors and nurses alone are responsible for these mounting medical negligence claims. Instead, this sharp and sudden increase is a symptom of a much broader and more serious problem.
Growing medico-legal claims speak to a number of issues such as the lack of staff, overworked staff, improperly qualified staff, shortage of pharmaceuticals, the absence of critical equipment, deficient medical supplies, not enough operational ambulances, issues pertaining to hygiene, failure to secure patient records, poor patient safety and so on.
In fact, Kimberley Hospital has just recently been out of stock of tubing for dialysis procedures, which resulted in zero patients receiving dialysis treatment for approximately three consecutive weeks. This, like so many other failures of this department, is detrimental to patient’s lives and places additional strain on the already overburdened health care system. It could also very likely generate additional claims against the department.
The department’s deteriorating financial state, which sees it unable to pay service providers and suppliers, and further exposes it to legal action for breach of contract, has become a hazard to both itself and patients alike.
It cannot be tolerated that people must risk acquiring disabilities and even risk losing their lives because of incompetent management of the Health Department.
The fact that the fight to receive adequate health care has relocated from clinics and hospitals to the courts, is a sure fire sign that the Health Department has completely lost control of its mandate.
The DA will write to the National Minister of Health calling for an urgent intervention to address the inherent financial mismanagement within the Northern Cape Health Department.
We are on the verge of another Esidimeni crisis. The finances of this department must be stabilized as a matter of urgency so that quality management can be addressed and the standard of health care in the Northern Cape can be raised.
Dr Isak Fritz, MPL
Northern Cape Spokesperson of Health
083 395 2737
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387