EOP chair Dr Ismail Bhorat speaking to colleagues at the weekend

One of the
main goals of the Expert Opinion Panel (EOP) – mandated by and now affiliated
to the SA Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SASOG) to address the
unsustainable trend of spiralling costs of indemnity and unrealistic manner of
litigation and inappropriate judgements faced by the disciplines – is to create
a paradigm shift or mind-set change that there is an alternative to costly and
unsustainable litigation.

Reassuring
colleagues at last week’s Gynaecology Management Group/SASOG Private Practice
Weekend seminar, EOP chair, Dr Ismael Bhorat, well-known Head of Fetal Medicine
at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, stressed that alternate dispute
resolution, or mediation, should be the primary path to deal with complaints.

“The
preferred course of action in disputes resolution has to be mediation. And if
mediation fails,” he added, “an alternate dispute resolution should be sought
in preference to litigation. Reasoning for this, as well all know, is that once
a case enters a litigation process it can take years and one can become ‘locked
in’ irrespective of the outcome.”

On this
issue, Bhorat explained that the EOP had already signed a memorandum of
understanding (MoU) with professional indemnity companies MPS and Constantia that
“alternate dispute resolution or mediation will be the first port of call in
any complaint.

“We also
have an HPCSA case which is going to be mediated and hopefully provide the
template for other HPCSA cases.”

Bhorat
went on to remind his audience that the primary objective of the EOP was to
serve the discipline from a medico-legal viewpoint while also being involved in
the maintenance of quality care – “a critical component of the BetterObs concept”.

“We are a
strictly independent, neutral body developed to render scientific,
evidence-based , up-to-date, unbiased and accurate opinions. The distinguished
academic nature of the members and of the structure of the organisation,” said
Bhorat, “will ensure this with strict procedural protocols and check as and
balances in place.

“And as
already mentioned, it fantails into the BetterObs programme and mediation as a
whole to resolve medico-legal conflicts.”

Discussing
the future, Bhorat said that it was hoped that EOP would be indemnified as a
legal entity to uphold its function and to this end the Department of Health
and the Minister of Health would soon be approached.

“Hopefully
in future the EOP will be the primary body where the medic-legal disputes of
our discipline will be directed. This,” Bhorat concluded, “would markedly drop
costs by reducing costly litigation and by reaching conclusions timeously to
the benefit of both plaintiffs and defendants.”