Landmark ConCourt application on soaring claims

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Eastern Cape Health is to approach the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether it should pay multi-billion-rand medico-legal claims at the expense of funding health services, reports The Herald. Several high-profile advocates and constitutional experts will lead the ground-breaking application.

The report says the legal matter is one of many strategies the premier’s executive committee decided at the weekend to implement to fight medico-legal claims in the province, which are threatening to wipe out large parts of the health department’s budget annually. “We are going to ask the court to make a ruling that the provision of health services must be prioritised and that the government not be asked to make huge lump-sum payments when we lose a case,” premier Oscar Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusi Sicwetsha, said. “We will instead offer to provide packages to claimants throughout their lives.”

The report says the plan was welcomed by the Medico-Legal Association of SA, but its Eastern Cape chair, attorney Henry Lerm, raised his concerns over “hints” in the plan that the department would not be honouring court orders. The Democratic Alliance’s Jane Cowley said the plan should include addressing the “scourge of inadequately trained officials who contributed to the collapse of the health sector”.

Sicwetsha said the main aim was to stop the payment of lump sums for medical negligence and offer ongoing assistance to patients instead. He said the office of the premier would, from now on, manage medico-legal claims against the health department. As part of the strategy for dealing with the ballooning costs of medico-legal claims, the executive committee had established a task team comprising senior officials to create a lasting, systematic solution to the medico-legal challenges.

The report says at the heart of the plan was the need to improve the provincial health facilities.

The Herald report (subscription needed)

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