A newly appointed consortium of lawyers has managed to save the Eastern Cape Health Department R45m. Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo is quoted in The Herald as saying that R17bn in medico-legal claims for alleged negligence were pending against it. “We paid out R100m in damages last year,” Kupelo said.
He said since the appointment of a new consortium of lawyers, Norton Rose Fulbright and Smith Tabata, the department had saved R45m. In one instance, a summons for R14m in a cerebral palsy case was successfully challenged on technical and legal grounds. The court ruled in favour of the Health Department and also ordered the plaintiff to pay its costs. The matter was subsequently withdrawn and court costs were tendered, Kupelo said.
The report say the firm Norton Rose Fulbright and local attorneys Smith Tabata were appointed in November after Health MEC Dr Pumza Dyantyi complained that her department was not receiving adequate representation from the state attorney. The consortium of attorneys also represents some of the country’s major private hospital groups and their liability insurers.
At the time of their appointment, the department had had to pay out R600m in damages over a seven-year period. At the time, Dyantyi said the state attorney had only managed to win four out of 155 medico-legal claims brought against the department since 2014. The rest of the claims were settled.
Justice Department spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said in the report that it was within the mandate of the department to outsource legal representation.
Kupelo said he also expected that “heads will roll” after the Health Department passed on sensitive information about fake claims to the Hawks. During her recent policy speech, Dyantyi said the department was implementing a multi-pronged approach to fight medico-legal claims, which included appointing more personnel in hospitals where women and babies were treated.
The Democratic Alliance's Celeste Barker said she wanted to congratulate the attorneys involved. “It is an outstanding achievement, but what a shame that we have personnel drawing salaries and occupying space who couldn’t do the same.”
[link url="http://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2018/03/20/department-saved-r45m-lawsuits/"]The Herald report[/link]