KwaZulu-Natal Health is investigating a Johannesburg-based law firm that has filed a whopping 112 medical negligence cases against it in the past two months.
The department is quoted in The Mercury as saying that its own legal forensic partners were looking into the matter and it had also referred it to the Special Investigating Unit.
Delivering her department’s R45bn budget vote, Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said medico-legal claims remained a serious concern for the department and put severe pressure on its budget. “One of the contributing factors to this is the unethical practice of touting by certain unscrupulous law firms. In fact, one of the law firms we are investigating is based in Joburg and has, on its own, launched 96 (later updated to 112) claims in just two months, which is highly suspicious,” she said.
According to the report, the law firm has no office in KZN, which has raised concerns that its lawyers were being “fed” information.
Simelane-Zulu said the department planned to establish a medical claims unit in a bid to manage claims more effectively. The unit would be responsible for investigating every potential claim. It would be made up of professionals, who had medical and legal expertise, which would empower them to advise the department on the correct course of action to follow and the quantum of damages to be awarded, where necessary.
The report quotes Simelane-Zulu as saying that the department was also in the process of establishing a panel of lawyers who were going to assist and represent it in court.
The department was currently facing 2,600 medical claims, with 450 of those filed in the 2018-19 financial year. It paid about R420m in the past financial year for claims, and some were still being adjudicated.
The total rand figure of the pending claims was not revealed.The Mercury report (subscription needed)