Eastern Cape Health MEC Pumza Dyantyi has decided to outsource the department’s legal representation, saying she is not happy with the way her department is represented by the State Attorney’s office.
Dyantyi said the department had won only four of 155 medico-legal claims brought against it since 2014. The rest were settled. The department faces R17-billion in legal claims for negligence in the province’s state hospitals.
Responding to a question by the DA’s Vicky Knoetze in the Eastern Cape legislature, Dyantyi said representation by the State Attorney over the past three years had cost the department R204-million.
“The department has gone to the open market for a panel of medicolegal experts who will assist with the vigorous defence of claims in court,” she said.
“This has been necessitated by the fact that the department has not been satisfied with the level of success of the State Attorney in defending medico-legal claims.
“The bid process for this panel of experts is almost complete and the department expects to appoint a service provider before the end of July.
“The payment of medical legal claims has an adverse effect on the overall budget and service delivery plans of the department.”
Dyantyi said the department was trying to protect posts by paying these claims from the “goods and services” budget.
Knoetze said the State Attorney clearly did not have the expertise to deal with the matter and the state was paying exorbitant fees for legal advice.
“What is going wrong at our state hospitals that the State Attorney only tried to defend 3.7% of medico-legal claims in the last three financial years?” she asked.
“Are cases really undefendable or do the offices of the State Attorney not have the capacity to deal with these cases?
“If the remainder of the R17-billion in medico-legal claims also goes undefended, the overwhelming cost will collapse the department.
“This means the department will either have to reduce or consolidate its facilities or reduce its services to the public. At the end of the day, it is the people who will suffer, especially the poor.”