EC Health Department medico-legal claims total R40bn

The provincial government has now made plans to counter its legal challenges by opening vacancies to law practitioners and experts.

EAST LONDON - A whopping R40-billion in medico-legal claims is the amount the Eastern Cape Health Department could fork out if they lose lawsuits against them.

The provincial government has now made plans to counter its legal challenges by opening vacancies to law practitioners and experts.

READ: Government attempts to curb medico-legal claims 

Officials suspect that many of the claims against them are not legitimate and are being used to cripple the department financially.

Ziphozihle Tomsana says she has a strong case against the Eastern Cape Health Department as she plans to take them to court. She believes the staff at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital were negligent when she gave birth in 2014. The 30-year-old says her life has become unbearable.

Tomsana said, "this has affected me so badly I feel like an old granny I am suffering so much. I feel like for the past eight years I have been surviving."

"I don't know who I am anymore this is not nice being in pain every day you are in pain it is frustrating because I am still young. I am supposed to be enjoying my youth and now I am stuck at home I even feel like committing suicide because the medication is not helping me anymore and I don't even want to go back to the hospital anymore."

The Eastern Cape Health Department says while there are legitimate cases against them there could also be instances where unscrupulous lawyers are colluding with unethical healthcare staff to get claims. 

EC Health Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said, "there are indications that people may have colluded with some legal practitioners to milk the state hence the investigations and now we have to try to close that gap and make sure we defend that case that gets lodged against us."

"We were able to save about R77-million just by scrutinising the cases that were being lodged against the department. And just over 40 cases were found to have been duplicated by various lawyers." 

The SA Human Rights Commission in the Eastern Cape says health authorities must ensure that they prioritise more on providing quality health care.

The SAHRC's Eileen Carter said, "we do recommend that they bolster their administrative process internally. But we also call on the department that they prioritise for us a key area that needs prioritisation is mental health care. In 2017, we issued a mental health care report where we called upon the department to make sure that the staff is available to attend to this very silent need."                                                                                                                                                                         

The Eastern Cape Health Department believes it will function more effectively if its budget is not affected by these mounting legal challenges. 

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