An East London health official has been arrested and accused of stealing confidential patient documents, allegedly to help lawyers seeking to sue the department.
The woman, 58, who works in the outpatients department at the newly completed Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (CMH), was caught by security guards at the gate with new folders, data forms, tablets, stickers, handcream and handscrub.
She was handed over yesterday at the Vulindlela police station.
The health department confirmed this, saying she was arrested over allegations of smuggling confidential patient documents. Spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said more arrests were expected, including lawyers who allegedly worked with her.
“We want to send a clear message that we are on their heels. It may happen that this official was working with unscrupulous lawyers who want to litigate against the department.
“They won’t be spared,” said Kupelo. The department was under siege, he added. “We are aware of this modus operandi. These people will steal these documents, hand them to unscrupulous lawyers, and they will then phone the patients and say they will help them sue the department.”
Kupelo said the worst was that even if patients won, they ended up with very little. “Patients have come back to us to report that their lawyers have not given them their money.”
Since 2004 the department has paid out close to R14-billion in medical negligence claims.
Most cases relate to problems experienced during birth, resulting in injury to the baby or the mother.
Health department head Dr Thobile Mbengashe last year told the Dispatch they were struggling to fend off medical negligence claims due to records going missing. He said then that there were people in the department stealing files and giving them to lawyers.
Kupelo admitted yesterday that some claims were justified. “We are not painting all lawyers as wrong, but there are those who are known to be in cahoots with our officials who steal these confidential files. We will deal with them, harshly,” he said.
Kupelo said two more issue hitting the department hard were theft of medicines and “jobs for sale” scams. He recently heard that new jobs for CMH were being “sold”.
“Unsuspecting people will pay between R3000 and R3500 for work and we are told that our officials are involved in this. Those who are buying these jobs must know that they are part of the crime. They should report it to the department.”
Mdantsane police spokesman Captain Nkosikho Mzuku said the CMH woman would appear in court soon. — firstname.lastname@example.org