Health experts and trade unions have cautioned Parliament not to pass the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Bill as it could be another Life Esidimeni tragedy waiting to happen, says a report in The Sunday Independent..
What irks the experts is Section 43 of the Bill, which bans the cession of medical invoices to financial institutions and third-party administrators. They say this will have dire consequences on workers, employers, and medical service providers.
Moira Wilson, a private practitioner at Milpark Hospital, warned that the amendment would be disastrous, and injured workers would suffer the consequences. Wilson said she and her counterparts were of the view that the amendment could lead to another Life Esidimeni tragedy. "I agree it will be a disaster and will ostensibly deny vital, timeous, and good quality treatment to injured workers, the very people we are trying to help. The patients will be denied treatment and may have to seek treatment at already overburdened state facilities," said Wilson.
Wilson said historically, several third parties were extremely successful with legal action against the Compensation Fund (CF), forcing it to pay outstanding claims. ‘If cessions are removed, it will be difficult for single practice owners to take legal action against the fund, and the accountability will be even less than it is presently,’ said Wilson.
However, CF spokesperson Themba Mdluli said the amendment of Section 43 was necessary because a claim can now be lodged by or on behalf of the claimant in the prescribed manner within 12 months after the date of the accident. "Read with the amended Section 44, this means that the claimant who did not lodge a claim within 12 months from the date of accident may still do so within 24 months before the claim prescribes. This means that the right to claim is extended by a further 24 months. We are not sure how improving the claimant’s access to benefits can be equated to Life Esidimeni," Mdluli is quoted as saying by The Sunday Independent.
Tim Hughes, of the Injured Workers Action Group (IWAG), said the problem with this Bill was that the CF was wholly dysfunctional, so removing the cession of invoices also eliminates the only part of the fund’s value chain that works. ‘The impact, if adopted, is catastrophic: injured workers won’t have access to quality healthcare, which is the very essence of the Act.'
Hughes, said in an IoL report that there was “no legal justification” for the proposed amendment to Section 43 of the Act, which would remove the right of medical service providers to use external administrators to lodge claims with the fund.
According to IWAG these third parties play a critical role in ensuring medical service providers invoices are paid timeously, while removing the cumbersome administrative, financial and legal burden from healthcare professionals.
Hughes said IWAG was calling for the removal of Section 43 from the legislation as the use of administrators was the only functional aspect of the “dysfunctional fund” that kept claimants waiting years for payment.
The Sunday Independent report is not available online without subscription
Full IoL report (Open access)
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