Featured Article, Health, South Africa

Medical negligence cost Gauteng Health Department R1.017 billion

The Gauteng Health Department has paid R1.017 billion since January 2015 to settle 185 medical negligence claims, but took no disciplinary action whatsoever against any of the staff involved in these incidents.

This is one of the shock disclosures by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

Another 51 negligence cases are currently before the courts, claiming a total amount of R414 million.

While the payouts and future claims are huge, no amount of money can compensate for the agony and misery endured by the victims of medical neglect.

Brain-damaged babies are the largest negligence category – 50 payments amounting in total to R769 million (76% of all payments).

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital had by far the most negligence cases, which resulted in R514 million paid to 44 claimants.

Other hospitals with three or more cases were as follows:

• Steve Biko Hospital: R15.1 million for 14 cases.
• Natalspruit/Thelle Mogoerane Hospital: R54 million paid for 12 cases.
• Tembisa Hospital: R43.5 million for 10 cases.
• Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital: R26.2 million for 10 cases.
• Pholosong Hospital: R78 million for 8 cases.
• Kalafong Hospital: R25.2 million for 7 cases.
• Leratong Hospital: R22.85 million for 7 cases.
• George Mukhari Hospital: R6.8 million for 7 cases.
• Bertha Gxowa Hospital: R6.2 million for 6 cases.
• Rahima Moosa Hospital: R26.4 million for 5 cases.
• Tambo Memorial Hospital: R430 000 for the one case and pending amounts for 4 other cases.
• Pretoria West Hospital: R9.85 million for 4 cases.
• Far East Rand Hospital: R23.3 million for 4 cases.
• Yusuf Dadoo Hospital: R7 million for 4 cases.
• Edenvale Hospital: R12.4 million for 3 cases.

The five largest pay-outs were as follows:

• R36 795 413 for cerebral palsy caused by brain damage at birth at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (CHBH).
• R33 469 290 for cerebral palsy caused by brain damage at CHBH.
• R29 989 117 for brain damage at the Natalspruit Hospital.
• R24 596 364 for brain damage at CHBH.
• R18 947 295 for cerebral palsy caused by brain damage at the CHBH.

It should be noted that in the four CHBH cases above, the initial amount claimed was R5 million, much lower than what was actually awarded based on the estimated costs of lifetime care.

At total of R15.3 million was paid for 14 deaths, mostly babies.

The true human tragedy is revealed in the details of botched treatment, as seen in this sample of cases:

  • At Pholosong Hospital, R263 000 was paid out for the deaths of a mother and her baby.
  • R12 million was paid for causing blindness to a baby at the Tembisa Hospital and R7 million for blindness in a baby at the Rahima Moosa Hospital.
  • R19.7 million paid for “negligence resulting in patient being unable to walk and use his neck muscle” at CHBH.
  • R6 million paid for “negligence for operating on the patient wrongly on the spine that led to her being confined to a wheelchair” at CHBH.
  • R481 000 paid for “lost one eye [during] surgery” at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.
  • R1.4 million paid for “patient burnt by a nursing staff (hot water in the bathroom)” at Kalafong Hospital.
  • R4 million for amputation of a leg and arm at the Yusuf Dadoo Hospital.
  • R853 000 for amputation of a finger at the Steve Biko Hospital.
  • R553 000 for “negligence resulting in patient not being able to conceive again” at Rahima Moosa Hospital.