Gauteng health department bank accounts blocked‚ phone lines cut

13 September 2017 - 17:17 By Katharine Child
Chained card.
Chained card.
Image: iStock

The Gauteng Department of Health has had 14 FNB bank accounts attached after failing to pay Joubert Attorneys for four medical negligence claims.

In order to force payment the sheriff of the court has attached the department's bank accounts.

This means they can't spend money until they have paid the legal firm.

In this case the department owes R33.7-million for four cases of children brain damaged at birth.

Gauteng department of health is facing an avalanche of negligence claims‚ mostly linked to children born with brain damage due to mothers being denied necessary C-sections. It has R21.96-billion claimed against it by lawyers awaiting judgment in negligence cases‚ according to its latest annual report. This is just over half of this financial year's R40.2-billion health budget.

The department has often had its assets attached‚ forcing it to pay claims but in this case the sheriff first attached the furniture to force payment and then removed the furniture from the office two weeks ago.

This led to employees having to be moved to Pretoria to work from a different office‚ that still had desks and chairs. But the department still didn’t pay Joubert Attorneys.

Charles Phasa‚ a department employee and branch secretary of the National Health‚ Education and Allied Workers Union‚ told the DA's Jack Bloom that actually removing furniture made working conditions “very bad”. He said: "Every year the sheriff comes in and the department waits until the 11th-hour to negotiate some sort of way to cover their payments‚ but this time around it is just too much."

Bloom said: "It is shameful that the Sheriff has to resort to the extreme action of attaching bank accounts because the department refuses to comply with court orders."

The Gauteng department of health appears to be in severe financial distress with Telkom cutting the phone lines at Head Office‚ according to Bloom. TimesLIVE attempted to reach the head office and heard: "The number you have dialled is presently not in service."

Negligence cases have been increasing as have payouts‚ with many judges awarding millions in payouts. This is worked out for the cost of care for children maimed at birth and takes into account private hospital bills‚ regular physiotherapy‚ and full time caregivers.

About R 50-billion‚ just under a third of the national health budget of R181-billion‚ is wanted in legal claims against the national health department.

The Gauteng health department brought a court case asking that negligence payouts not be paid in one lump sum‚ but in tranches over time‚ with the case implying it may be struggling to afford its payouts. It was heard last month at the Constitutional court and judgment is expected soon.