The Gauteng Health Department faces extra financial pressure after the Constitutional Court ruled against its bid to pay off a multimillion-rand medical negligence claim over time, rather than pay it in one lump sum.
The case concerned a R23.3 million payment to a boy who is now seven years old who suffered brain damage from negligence when he was born at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. R20 million of this was earmarked for future medical expenses which the department wanted to pay as these arose.
On Tuesday this week, the Concourt upheld the rulings of lower courts that the once-and-for-all rule of common law prohibited a pay-as-you-go arrangement and that it would be inappropriate for the common law to be developed in this case.
I find it strange that the ConCourt said that the department had failed to provide sufficient evidence that paying out negligence claims in a lump sum would put strain on the health department’s budget.
This shows the gross incompetence of the Department’s lawyers as such evidence could easily have been provided.
The law must be respected, so the Department is now faced with paying this claim and other multi-million claims in a single installment, rather than trying to evade the law and having a Sheriff of the court confiscate furniture to force payment.
This ruling highlights the urgency of resolving the Department’s dire financial situation in a sustainable manner as well as effective measures to reduce medical negligence that leads to large claims.