A matter due to come before the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) this month represents a test case for Health Department claims that public hospitals are as good as private ones, notes Legalbrief. Mbali Nzimande, whose five-year-old daughter was born with cerebral palsy, secured costly professional help after she won a legal battle against the KZN Health Department in June last year.

The court ruled that staff at the Estcourt Hospital, where Masisi was born feet first and with the umbilical cord around her neck, had been negligent. But now, according to a Sunday Times report, her daughter’s access to private health care is under threat because of moves by the department to avoid legal liability to meet such bills.

Instead it has proposed ‘tendering free services’ at the same state institutions where the patients suffered harm in the first place.

Nzimande’s attorney, Michael Friedman, in a notice of objection, accused the department of acting in bad faith, saying the attempt to avoid financial liability is ‘more of a general policy designed to delay all trials’.

It is public knowledge that they cannot offer proper services. They are not being truthful,’ he said.

Clearly services are substandard, otherwise we would not have these cases in the first place.

The provincial Health Department – which in November last year was facing lawsuits amounting to more than R17bn – says it is being financially crippled by the many cases brought against it for negligence.

Department spokesperson Ncumisa Mafunda said: ‘The department will endeavour not to pay upfront in cases where it can prove that it will be able to take care of a patient’s health needs for the rest of their lives.’

Full Sunday Times report (subscription needed)