Radiologists take legal action against Department of Labour
Together with 19 radiology practices, the Radiological Society of South Africa (RSSA) has instituted legal proceedings in the High Court against the Compensation Commissioner and the Minister and Director General of the Department of Labour.
The action is based on outstanding claims worth R121,5 million made by radiologists, under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, to the Compensation Fund. The proceedings follow the near-complete breakdown and failure of the processes meant to be implemented under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993.
Under this Act, medical professionals, including radiologists, render medical services to employees who are injured while at work with no upfront payment. The Act provides important social security protection for injured or ill employees who often cannot afford the medical costs associated with treating their occupational injuries or diseases. The Compensation Fund is supposed to reimburse these medical service providers.
“Due to the systemic failures of the Fund and its officers to effectively fulfil their statutory duties, there exists a backlog of thousands of claims worth millions of rand. Many of these have not even been processed despite being lodged years ago, while many of those that have been approved have simply not been paid. Moreover, the implementation of a new claims-processing system has led to certain claims not even being lodged, and introduced further difficulties on an already inefficient system,” explains Dr Richard Tuft, executive director of the Radiological Society of South Africa.
“Despite previous and repeated engagement with the Fund’s administrators, litigation is the last resort to ensure that this necessary social protection does not fail completely,” he adds.
Represented by law firm Webber Wentzel, the RSSA hopes that the legal action will provide relief to the affected practices by enforcing the payment and proper processing of claims; as well as provide systemic relief to ensure the timeous discharge of statutory obligations by various designated actors under the Compensation Act.
“A lack of willingness on the part of the Fund to meaningfully co-operate can only result in the withdrawal of medical services under the Act. This only serves to prejudice the thousands of workers who may suffer an injury or illness while at work, and can no longer access the necessary medical care and attention they need,” concludes Dr Tuft.