Lawyers attach Gauteng health department's bank account to recover R500m in medical negligence claims

Lawyers have attached Gauteng health department's bank account to recover R500m in medical negligence claims
Lawyers have attached Gauteng health department's bank account to recover R500m in medical negligence claims
Image: 123RF/Lucian Coman

Health services in Gauteng could be in serious threat after the bank account of the provincial  department of health was attached as part of an enforcement for its failure to pay more than R500m in medical negligence.

In a written reply to the DA MPL Jack Bloom, Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku confirmed that the bank account had been attached for 213 cases of medical negligence worth over R574m.

“It is really shameful that lawyers have to attach bank accounts to get court-ordered payment for medical negligence, mostly for children brain-damaged at birth,” Bloom said.

In the past the sheriff of the court used to attach furniture at the Bank of Lisbon building which last year went up in flames.

Gary Austin, a lawyer at Gary Austin Inc who has worked in some of the cases against the department, said attaching furniture did not yield results.

“We would come with trucks and attach computers and furniture from all the 13 floors. The problem with that is that I used to get a judgment of R20m but from the sale of the furniture I would get R1m or R200,000.

Austin said the law allows a creditor to take any asset which can be used to recover the debt.

“Whatever money was in the account can be used to settle the debt,” he said.

Medical negligence claims have troubled the Gauteng department of health for years.

Between January 2017 and March 2018, the department paid R521m in medical claims on 138 cases of medical negligence. As at April last year, there were 1,597 cases before the courts totalling R22bn.

The debt has compelled provincial treasury to give the health department the biggest slice of the budget for two consecutive financial years. In the past, education had been receiving the biggest slice of the budget.

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