Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Parliament has extended the deadline  for written submissions on an amendment  bill aimed at replacing lump sum payments for medical negligence claims with periodic claims.

The extension of the State Liability Amendment Bill to Friday November 16 followed a complaint by the industry lobby group the Medical Malpractice Lawyers Association, who argued that  the bill had not been  allowed enough time for public participation.

The bill has far-reaching implications, as it proposes replacing lump-sum settlements for patients who lodge successful claims for medical negligence against the state with periodic payments, and limiting care to public health-care facilities.

The stated aim of the bill is to reduce the financial burden facing the state from medical negligence claims, but critics say  this will push up costs in the long run.

Earlier this week, the association wrote to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, Madipoane Mothapo, expressing its concern about the limited time provided for comment on the bill.

Members of the public were given just  10 working days to submit comment, and provided with only five working days in which to prepare oral submissions, it said.

“Given the seriousness and complexity of the issues presented by the bill, the time frame for public comment was woefully inadequate,” the association said in its letter to Mothapo.

The association also drew attention to the fact that few MPs were present when the committee heard oral submissions on the bill on October 31.

“The absence of members of the committee in sufficient number for the duration of the public hearings impacts significantly on the credibility of the process,” it said.

Mothapo said the committee agreed the time frame for making submissions had been short. “Hence we agreed to an extension until next week Friday [November 16] for written submissions,” she said.

Sparse attendance at committee meetings was not unusual, she said, as MPs had to juggle the demands of multiple committee meetings taking place at the same time. “We had a quorum. Understand that MPs are overworked. Some sit in more than three committees,” she said.