Dept refers lawsuits to private firm LEGAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Health has referred 46 medical legal claims, exceeding R60 million, to a private law firm for litigation.
The firm indicates on its website that it specialises in matters relating to the Road Accident Fund (RAF). It also has expertise in dealing with general insurance law, general litigation, conveyancing, construction and consumer law.
The attorneys and conveyancers have offices in Cape Town and Kimberley.
The negligence cases, many of which are being claimed against the MEC for Health, date from 2014 up until this year.
The services of the State attorney for the 46 cases were terminated by the head of the medico-legal unit, Papi Motingoe, last month.
Some of the matters are at critical stages of trial, in preparation for trial, or where the settlement amounts are being decided upon.
The chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, questioned why the matters were referred to a private law firm.
“While some of the cases are being argued in court or at stage of full and final settlement, the files are being perused from scratch. The average cost for the perusal of documents amounts to about R22 000 per file. Advocates will also have to be appointed for court appearances,” said Henderson.
He added that many of these cases should be settled out of court, where the department had conceded the merits and was advised that they were not “winnable cases”.
“Furthermore, these cases were removed from the State Attorney’s Office, which provides legal services to the Department of Health free of charge.”
Henderson indicated that government departments were given a mandate to ensure that local businesses were given an equal opportunity to provide services to state departments.
“There do not appear to be any tenders advertised for the litigation of these 46 matters. It is prescribed regulation for the State Attorney’s Office to recommend a private law firm if their services are terminated, while the MEC for Health as well as the board must be advised of this decision.”
Henderson also called for a commission of inquiry to be instituted by an independent judge or retired judge into the “rot at the department”.
“While the task team claims to be reducing legal costs, it is instead escalating irregular and wasteful expenditure.”
The spokesperson for the MEC for Health, Lebogang Majaha, indicated that the MEC had planned a management meeting, to be convened today, to review the process plan to swiftly deal with the medico-legal claims faced by the department.
The private law firm stated that the claims were all sub judice and were of a confidential nature.