Attorney Romany Sutherland

The Western Cape Department of Health medico-legal service recognises that the only way to cut medical malpractice litigation and its financial repercussions is to reduce medical and clinical errors at service level.

“This in turn will require the rehabilitation of effective service and management at the highest possible level throughout each provincial health department in our country,” attorney Romany Sutherland, Western Cape chair of the SA Medico-Legal Association (SAMLA), stressed in her SAMLA Presidential Presentation on Sunday.

“Compared with this priority,” she added, “all legal strategy being applied amounts only to damage control.”

Sutherland, medical mediation consultant to the provincial health department, was one of 40 concerned professionals to address State President Cyril Ramaphosa “frankly and constructively” on pressing medico-legal issues, the proceedings of which were video recorded for submission to the president’s office.

Student stress

Keeping medico-legal matters out of court, Sutherland explained, was one of two passions, the second being the mental health of the country’s medical practitioners.

On the latter she alluded to the ever-increasing incidence of post-traumatic stress among medical students: “This,” she exclaimed, “is reaching epidemic levels and not being addressed as it should be. I have a great team of people put together to deal with this the best we can, but we need government involvement and funding.

“I urge you, Mr President, to consider our plight.”