JOHANNESBURG – As a Soweto mother whose baby was stolen from hospital prepares to sue the Gauteng Health Department, MEC Dr Bandile Masuku said lawsuits had severely strained its finances and this was impacting services.
Twenty-five-year-old Bikokuhle Hlatshwayo is taking the department to court after her baby was taken from a ward at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in June by a woman who had posed as the infant’s grandmother.
Hlatshwayo, who was recovering from a C-section birth at the time, she suffered emotional trauma and wanted compensation.
Baby Mpumelelo was later found alive and unharmed and a 35-year-old woman was arrested. The abduction cast the spotlight on safety and security at public health facilities.
The Health Department was already facing legal claims of over R20 billion and Masuku said he was worried. He said he believed officials acted swiftly to ensure the baby’s safe return.
“I think we did very well in all the levels, even the police did extremely well, so she can go to the courts and we’ll take it from there,” Masuku said.
Across the province, lawsuits for medical negligence were piling up and ran into billions of rand, Masuku said his department was struggling.
“We are using money that is supposed to go to goods and services, and now we are using it to pay for litigation,” he said.
The MEC said security upgrades at state facilities were being prioritised to ensure safety.
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