Medical Law – Rapid Increase of Medical Lawsuits in Gauteng

According to a News24 report, dated 4 June 2012, the Gauteng Health Department (‘the Department’) has paid R11.6 million to the family of an 8-year-old boy who suffered cerebral palsy after treatment at the Far East Rand Hospital.  The payment was made after the Department was ordered to do so by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The latest medical negligence payment by the Department follows on a report by News24, dated 15 April 2012, in which the DA voiced its concerns that higher payouts for medical negligence cases will severely impact the Gauteng Health Department’s budget as courts are granting higher payouts for medical negligence cases. Every effort should be made to ensure that quality health care is provided.

These concerns were raised after the news broke that the Department had been ordered by a court to pay R12 million to a mother whose baby was born brain-damaged and permanently paralysed due to negligence of staff of a Edenvale hospital.

The Department had already paid R15. 5 million in two medical negligence cases during this year alone.  R9. 25 million was paid to the family of a baby who was brain damaged during birth at the Pholosong Hospital.  Another R 6. 25 million was paid to a patient whose leg was amputated after he was scheduled for heart surgery at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.

Gauteng Health spokesperson Simon Zwane was quoted as saying that the department was ‘making efforts’ to prevent further lawsuits and to ‘generally improve the quality of healthcare in the province’.

However, despite the Department’s efforts it would appear as if claims of this nature are still on the increase, to the detriment of the Gauteng Health budget.