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Law reform sought to stem exodus of specialists

The SA Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Sasog) is contemplating seeking a law reform to have medical litigation risk lowered, spokesperson Heidi Kruger told City Press.

Galloping medico-legal claims ranging between R50m and R80m, coupled with exorbitant medical insurance rates of up to R1m a year are some of the many reasons specialists are leaving the health profession in droves, says a City Press report.

Kruger said the situation was untenable. “The increase in litigation of ob-gyns is of great concern to Sasog and is having a negative impact on the profession and the relationship between patient and doctor.”

“Many obstetricians are electing to leave the profession because of the risks involved and the threat of litigation. This results in changes to the way medical professionals and patients interact with one another. Instead of the relationship being one of trust, the threat of litigation means that obstetricians are more likely to practise defensive medicine. Ob-gyns therefore conduct more tests, screening and perform Caesarean sections over vaginal deliveries to protect themselves from litigation.”

 “While in 2015 the highest quantum for a claim would have been in the region of R20m, it is not uncommon nowadays to see a claim, such as that of cerebral palsy, being as high as R50m to R80m. Sasog believes that the increase in litigation is in part owing to changes to the Road Accident Fund (RAF) legislation, which has prevented lawyers from deriving their incomes from the RAF. We also believe that focus for litigation is on ob-gyns as the quantum of claims is high.”

Kruger said the law reforms Sasog was seeking would involve it working with other societies as well the Health Department, seeking mediation as a first resort, a dedicated multidisciplinary medico-legal authority and education of the legal fraternity around scientific matters.

[link url="https://city-press.news24.com/News/why-doctors-are-leaving-the-health-profession-in-droves-20191105"]City Press report[/link]

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