Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that the
Department of Health in South Africa will be advertising a position for their
Medical negligence claims
Speaking yesterday at the Medico Legal Summit in Centurion
on the topic of medical negligence, Motsoaledi indicated that the role of the
ombudsman would be to address the “challenges” in both private and public
According to the City
Press, Motsoaledi has warned that doctors are so fearful of medical
negligence claims that they are extremely reluctant to perform surgeries – a
situation that has now reached crisis point and is having a detrimental effect
on mothers and children in particular.
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Professor Ames Dhai from the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics
believes that the situation has been worsened by poor working conditions for
medical professionals. She indicates that high levels of stress are aggravated
by poor hospital security, inadequate resources and low salaries among other
The country has also seen a dramatic increase in medical
negligence claims that are threatening to bankrupt institutions such as the
Road Accident Fund, an article by the SABC
states. Medical litigation claims have increased by 573% in the last 13 years.
In 2013, these claims amounted to a total of R33 million.
Motsoaledi believes many of these claims are fraudulent
attempts by State Attorney syndicates to line their own pockets.
Press reports: “People are working in syndicates to achieve their aim which
is one – to line their pockets in the name of patients who may have been
victims in one way or another.”
Induviduals deliberately mishandle claims
According to an article by News24,
Motsoaledi believes that these syndicates include lawyers, state employees and a
number of individuals within the health profession who deliberately mishandle claims,
causing the government to lose cases and having to fork out significant amounts
of money for compensation.
Four of the most targeted specialities include neurosurgery,
orthopaedics, neonatology and obstetrics and gynaecology.
The health ombudsman will be tasked with enforcing health
and safety within the department.
An ombudsman is a somewhat independent authority, usually
appointed by government or parliament to represent the public’s interests.
According to the
International Ombudsman Association typical duties of an ombudsman include
- Listen, understand and mediate issues whilst
remaining objective with respect to the facts
- Assist individuals in understanding issues and
their available options
- Guide and coach individuals in their dealings
with other parties
- Assists in taking issues to formal resolution
- Identify new opportunities for change within the
In terms of voicing complaints, there is a procedure that
should be followed. Initially, the health professional involved should be
contacted directly to ensure that they are aware of the problem. In the
instance that he or she fails to adequately resolve the issue, the ombudsman
office should be contacted. If the issue is still not resolved to the patient’s
satisfaction, the patient can either contact an attorney to handle the matter
or request action from the Medical and Dental Boards of the Health Professions
Council of South Africa.
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Motsoaledi warns of the changes that the ombudsman office
will bring: “It is no longer going to be business as usual. When the Ombudsman
office is established, we are going to make sure that there are consequences.
Because this office will have a routine of reporting, they are not just going
to investigate and come to find you and keep quiet. The findings must become
public. They must know who's doing what in practice and who's not doing what.
There must be massive improvement in clinical governance.”
The two day summit held on 9 and 10 March was urgently
convened by Motsoaledi to spur the health industry into action. The summit will
include a number of speakers, including representatives from the World Health
Organisation, Medical Protection Society, Road Accident Fund and the British
It hopes to address issues including patient safety, claims management,
patient justice and the impact of litigations on access to South African health
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