The threat posed by Clause 43, which is meant to amend Section 73 of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment (COIDA) Bill, was again raised as a concern on the second day of the Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour‘s virtual public hearings.

The South African Medical Association (Sama) said the clause, if left unchanged, will have a catastrophic impact on injured workers and doctors, surgeons, hospitals, physiotherapists, and other healthcare professionals.

Dr Angelique Coetzee said although Sama was supportive of the objective of providing quality medical care to people, it cannot support Clause 43 which is meant to amend section 73 of the act. “The clause means that medical practitioners can no longer use their medical claims as surety for payment in any manner. This will place immense administrative, financial and legal pressure on the medical sector; it will disadvantage injured workers and their right to quality medical care.”

She said the amendment meant medical practitioners would attend to the claims without any third party’s involvement and assistance. “The long-term impact could be such that doctors will just refuse to see the patients.”

The Portfolio Committee on Employment and Labour is currently having public hearings on the COIDA Bill. On Tuesday, it heard oral presentations from employers’ associations and industry bodies like COIDLink and Minerals Council South Africa.

Committee Member, Mr Michael Bagraim, welcomed Sama’s submission and said their diagnosis of the challenge with the Bill was spot on. Mr Bagraim said many of Sama members in the Western Cape raised concerns about the amendment and said they were refusing to do any work for patients injured at work.

Dr Coetzee said as a real world problem, the amendment would be unsustainable as there had not been a rational explanation for amending the Act. “We welcome that domestic workers will be included for the first time ever. We call on the Department of Employment and Labour to focus on what does not work at the fund, issues like claims, administrative capability of the fund, and the IT system.”

The committee also sought clarity on the importance of the third party administrators, familiarity with IT systems, and funds paid out to patients. Dr Coetzee clarified that doctors did not get involved with payments due to claimants. She said the current system was not user-friendly and that this was pointed out to the fund. She said the high turnover of CEOs was a matter for concern.

Other organisations that made presentations in the morning included the Association for Dietics SA (ADSA) and the QuadPara.

By Sibongile Maputi

21 April 2021