A multimillion-rand lawsuit against a hospital has laid bare the crisis faced by the KZN Department of Health over medical negligence claims that have gone through the roof, says a report in The Mercury.

Greytown Hospital senior management told members of the Health Portfolio Committee that they recently paid R11m in a medical negligence claim as compensation to a patient after a botched medical procedure.

As part of efforts to reduce medico-legal bills, the department announced yesterday that it was establishing a directorate to be responsible for investigating every potential claim, and each medico-legal claim that was lodged against it.

The committee members toured the province last month to assess the state of healthcare facilities.

In Greytown, they found that key challenges like staff shortages and archaic record keeping were serious contributing factors.

The details of the suit were not made public, but the hospital admitted to facing more legal claims that were at various stages of investigation.

The office of the Auditor-General confirmed last month that the department, which had a budget of R45bn, was facing about R20bn in lawsuits. The department said the increase in medico-legal claims was a global phenomenon that remained a serious concern, as it put severe pressure on its already inadequate budget.

‘During the 2018/2019 financial year, a total of 450 new medico-legal claims were received, which increased the total number of medico-legal cases to above 2 600.’

The department said it was in the process of establishing a panel of lawyers who were going to represent the department in court.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)