10 FACTS ABOUT THE IMPACT OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE SUITS ON HEALTHCARE IN SOUTH AFRICA
In a 2014 edition of SA Medical Journal, doctors warned the health system could collapse as medical negligence lawsuits were driving up the cost of private insurance for doctors, making practising certain specialities of medicine too expensive and risky. (South African Medical Journal, Volume 104, 11, 2014)
The number of claims against healthcare professionals in SA rose by 35% between 2011 and 2016, and the value of the claims during this period had increased 121%. (Medical Protection Casebook, August 2017)
Complaints to the Health Professions Council of SA have risen by 100% to 2 500 a year against doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals. (Medical Protection Casebook, August 2017)
Malpractice claims have become more complex and frequently involve multiple experts. Wrongful life claims, wrongful birth claims, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and birth defect claims are examples of new types of claims. (Medical Protection Casebook, August 2017)
South African Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president, Dr Johannes van Waart says in 2013, insurance against potential malpractice suits cost R250 000 a year; it is R850 000 in 2017 and expected to be R1m within a year. (Ethics under scrutiny as medical malpractice claims soar, Business Day, 26 September 2017)
According to the Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, from the 2014/15 financial year to the 2016/17 financial year, more than R2.3 billion has been paid to cover medical negligence claims – with the state’s contingent liability for the claims sitting at R56 billion. (Taxpayers fork out over R2.3 billion for medical negligence at state hospitals, BusinessTech, 31 October 2017)
Motsoaledi says 360 claims have been lodged in the current (2017/18) financial year so far, amounting to R241 million. Although some of the claims are legitimate, many of them are excessive and unjustified. (Taxpayers fork out over R2.3 billion for medical negligence at state hospitals, BusinessTech, 31 October 2017)
Rising medical PI insurance costs are also having an impact on doctors’ and hospitals’ costs. The rising cost of funding malpractice insurance is having a serious impact on obstetricians, often forcing doctors to charge a co-payment for their services. (Obstetrics in a State of Crisis, IOL News, 4 September 2016)
Doctors are the backbone of hospitals. SA’s three biggest private hospital groups make a significant contribution to the economy, generating R55.5 billion, or 1.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), in 2016, according to research by Econex. (Private hospitals’ contribution to the South African economy 2016/2017, Econex, September 2017)
Econex reports that for every person directly employed by private hospital groups, almost five additional formal and informal jobs are supported in the South African economy, and for every R10 million of capital investment, private hospital groups create 20 jobs. (Private hospitals’ contribution to the South African economy 2016/2017, Econex, September 2017)
WHAT IS MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY (PI)?
- Medical professional indemnity (PI) covers both doctors and their patients if something goes wrong during medical care and the patient is harmed. It indemnifies the insured for bodily injury or mental injury, illness, disease, or death of any patient caused or alleged by malpractice.
- It covers doctors for both legal costs and the costs of awarded compensation if they are found to have caused harm by committing an error, omission or negligent act.
- It’s important because it protects the doctor’s business against claims of malpractice or professional misconduct.