Medical negligence claims against the state have tripled in
the past year with the total value now exceeding R80 billion according to data obtained
by Business Day from Treasury. According
to the report published in today’s Business
the nine provincial health departments saw their medico-legal
contingent liabilities increase 33% year on year in 2017/18, to reach a level
almost triple that of the 2014/15 financial year. Should all the 2017/18 claims
be successful, the cost would equal 41% of their total budgets of R196-billion
for the next year, according toTreasury. This is putting healthcare delivery in
provinces at a huge risk as these the money to pay these claims is coming from
provincial health budgets.

Business Day’s analysis of provincial health department
annual reports for 2017/18, combined with Treasury figures, show medical
negligence claims against the state rose from R28.61 billion in 2014/15, to
R43.12 billion in 2015/16, and then rose to R60.48 billion in 2016/17 and to
R80.4 billion in 2017/18.

Provinces paid out a total of R2.75 billion during the
2017/18 financial year, the biggest slice of which occurred in the Eastern
Cape, which paid out R876.7 million. This is a significant increase on the year
before, when provinces paid out a collective R1.17 billion. Eastern Cape,
Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal accounted for more than three-quarters of all the
medical negligence claims against the state in 2017/18. The Eastern Cape saw a
huge R8.4 billion spike in claims, taking its total to R24.17 billion; claims
in Gauteng rose by R3.83 billion to R21 billion; and in KwaZulu-Natal claims
jumped R3.25 billion to R16.64 billion.

Treasury told Business Day that the “near exponential” increase
in claims and pay-outs was out of kilter with trends in SA’s healthcare quality
and outcomes, and was being driven by a host of factors, ranging from
increasingly litigious behaviour by law firms to poor recordkeeping and limited
legal capacity within provincial health departments to defend themselves
against claimants.