SECTION27 is a public interest law centre that seeks to influence, develop and use the law to protect, promote and advance human rights. Our name is drawn from the section in the South African Constitution which enshrines everyone's right to health care, food, water and social security.
On 18 July 2011, the Constitutional Court heard argument in the matter concerning the President’s recent extension of the Chief Justice’s term of office (set to expire at midnight on 14 August 2011). As set out in our last newsletter, SECTION27 acted on behalf of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL), which was admitted as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”).
On the 8th of June 2011 the Kwazulu-Natal High Court handed down judgment in the case of Langalakhe Ncengokwakhe Njoko v Minister of Safety and Security. In the judgment the court accepted evidence of Professor Francois Venter, President of the HIV/AIDS Clinicians Society, on the life expectancy of people living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment.
SECTION27 is becoming increasingly aware that some medical schemes try to narrow the scope of the benefit options they offer when it comes to processing claims. This may be done, for example, by mischaracterising claims so that they fall outside benefit options, improperly imposing late joiner penalties and waiting periods, or failing to cover prescribed minimum benefits as required by law. Such practices are unlawful and violate the rights of scheme members who are forced to incur out-of-pocket medical expenses in circumstances where they are covered by their benefit options. In some cases, they may also be prevented from accessing necessary health care.
Our client, IE, has been HIV positive for 20 years and participated in early trials of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines before the conventional treatment regimens became available. As a result of his exposure to various ARV medicines and regimens over an extended period, IE began to develop fatty growths on his back and neck and was diagnosed with ARV-related lipodystrophy. On the recommendation of his physician, IE applied to Bonitas Medical Fund (Bonitas) for authorisation for the surgical removal of the fatty growths on his body.
Bonitas, however, refused to cover the medical procedure on the basis that it considered the procedure to be cosmetic surgery. There was no medical basis for this decision. Bonitas failed to consider all the relevant information before it and mischaracterised the claim as cosmetic in order to avoid its legal obligation to cover IE’s costs. Following SECTION27’s intervention on behalf of IE, the claim was authorised with retrospective effect and IE was reimbursed most of his out-of-pocket expenses.
SECTION27 welcomes the judgment handed down by Judge Bhoola today in the Labour Court in the case of Gary Shane Allpass v Mooikloof Estates (Pty) Ltd.
The case concerns the unfair dismissal in 2008 of a horse riding instructor on the grounds of his HIV status. The ruling follows the institution of legal proceedings on behalf of Mr Allpass by Webber Wentzel Attorneys, with the assistance of SECTION27. In her judgment, Judge Bhoola noted that “this court is indebted to the AIDS Law Project for its assistance.” SECTION27 incorporates the AIDS Law Project.