The Western Cape Department of Health has in the past year paid more than R25m in medico-legal claims as scores of unhappy patients are increasingly suing doctors for negligence, says a Cape Argus report. A spokesperson for the department confirmed that between April and December the department paid in excess of R15m in litigation settlements, and R25.8m had since been paid out to claimants.
A Cape Town doctor, Mark Sonderup, has cautioned that rising litigation against doctors could bankrupt the country’s health sector while it drove many specialists out of their disciplines. Sonderup – who is also the deputy chair of SA Medical Association – described the suing of doctors and health departments as a “free for all”, and called for Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi to intervene.
He said one of the options to consider was to cap damages claims to avoid “bankrupting doctors and the health system”. Sonderup said the rise of the litigation claims against medical professionals not only threatened the role of specialists, but also caused a financial burden on the public. “Some of these specialists, who are needed so much by the country, pay in excess of R600,000 a year just in indemnity fees,” he said.Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)