Junior Doctor: Volume 3, issue 1 [July 2012]
MPS’s response to the Business Day article of 20 March 2012, Patients ‘need educating on rights, responsibilities’, generated some interest from members. The article reported Dr Kgosi Letlape, the HPCSA’s acting CEO, as saying that a decline in the levels of professionalism among healthcare practitioners and the increasing cost of medical negligence demonstrate the need for greater public awareness.
We agree that there has been an increase in medical litigation and the costs associated with it – we could hardly disagree; our data was quoted. Where our opinions converge are the reasons why. We feel that the public’s awareness of their rights, along with changes in the Road Accident Fund legislation and increasing contingency fee arrangements have increased litigation. The costs have been further escalated by improvements in medical care – meaning severely injured patients live longer – and an increasing sophistication of claimant attorneys.
While we differ on the reasons behind the increasing litigation costs, we have no problems with increasing awareness by patients of their rights – South Africa is a young democracy and this increase is to be welcomed.
Doubtless the advertising campaign will lead to more patients complaining to the HPCSA, many of whom will be treated by the State. Junior doctors are obliged to work for the State for the first couple of years and many stay on longer to gain knowledge and experience. Chances are that they may bear the brunt of the increased complaints.
That makes MPS membership all the more prudent. It is unlikely that your employer would help you with a complaint to the HPCSA – on the contrary, there may be a conflict of interest; indeed it could be them complaining. Two important messages here then: join MPS, and never ignore a complaint from your registering authority. Treat them and the complaint with the respect deserved.
Dr Graham Howarth – Editor-in-chief
MPS Head of Medical Services (Africa)