The Commissioner for Occupational Injuries and Disease has shown a "shocking level of neglect" in compensating sick and injured workers, the Democratic Alliance said on Wednesday.
"The [commission] has processed less than 17 percent of all claims it received in 2009, and... this has been the pattern over most of the past five years," DA labour spokesman Andrew Louw said in a statement.
According to a recently-tabled written reply by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to a parliamentary question, only 1628 of 9747 qualifying claims received last year were processed.
The number of qualifying claims processed versus the number received over the preceding four years were: 570 of 5580 (2005); 378 of 5325 (2006); 1267 of 3550 (2007); and 1648 of 11502 (2008).
Louw said the commission was supposed to provide cover for medical expenses for workers injured on duty, and all employers contributed to the fund.
"This reply is a shocking indictment of a government institution mandated to protect workers... There is no defence for this shocking level of neglect of such a vulnerable group," he said.
In his reply, Motsoaledi said the main challenge faced by the commissioner's office was contacting workers who had been certified to be suffering from occupational disease.
"Since the only means of communication with these persons is the address that has been provided when they are examined, in most cases at their place of employment, it becomes a challenge to communicate with them once separated with their employers," he said. - (Sapa, March 2010)