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Thousands of doctors face the chop

Resource type: News

Pretoria News (South Africa) |

by Mogomotsi Magome and Siyabonga Mkhwanazi The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has warned the public to be wary of medical practitioners who practice without being registered with the body. The HPCSA will this month erase about 12 000 practitioners from its database for failing to pay their annual fees and complying with regulations. The body said it is concerned that the number of complaints that they receive about practitioners has increased by 40% this year. According to HPCSA registrar, advocate Boyce Mkhize, the complaints ranged from fraud, unethical advertising and negligence. “We find that, for example, the number of fraud complaints concerning medical practitioners is on the rise. This is a serious concern because people are trying to enrich themselves at the expense of patients,” he said. He said medical companies frequently complained about doctors who had claimed from their clients’ accounts when there had not been a service rendered or they were over charged. “These companies have the obligation to report these individuals instead of making arrangements for them to pay back, as is sometimes the case,” he said. He added that it was important for patients to check with the council to see whether a practitioner was registered or not, or they can ask the practitioners to show them a valid practising card. “The problem with unregistered practitioners is that they fall out of our jurisdiction. If a patient faces problems after or while he is receiving treatment, we cannot take action against the practitioner,” he said. According to statistics released by the HPCSA, the sector most affected by the annual fee erasures is the emergency care, with about 6000 practitioners set to be erased. “There are many emergency care training centres mushrooming everywhere and often you find that they do not meet the standards, so we do not register them,” he said. The HPCSA also went on a targeted inspection raid yesterday but many of the doctors were not present at their premises. The annual registration fees for HPCSA range from around R500 to just above R1 000. If a medical doctor or any other health professional is struck off the HPCSA roll, he or she will not be able to practice medicine in the country. Normally, doctors and other medical practitioners are struck off the roll for misconduct and unethical behaviour. The move to erase defaulters could see medical surgeries or practices shut down and several doctors and medical practitioners prevented from working in public hospitals and clinics. Council spokesperson Tendai Dhliwayo said: “The HPCSA is aware that erasing so (many) practitioners is detrimental to the delivery of health care service in the country, but practitioners must be registered so that it is easy to distinguish who can practise and who cannot, otherwise there will be a situation where any person can take advantage of the situation and practise when they are not properly registered or not qualified to do so – thus endangering the lives of those seeking health care services,” Dhliwayo said. He said reasons for defaulting range from change of address, emigration, to professional delinquency. “Some don’t pay as they are unemployed, others might have relocated, others might have decided to take time off to do other things and we have some who just don’t pay. “For those who are not working or have relocated they have an option of applying for voluntary erasure,” he said. They were welcome to reapply for their membership if they decide to resume their practice.

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