Coronavirus questions and answers

South Africa specific

As a mutual organisation, our only purpose is to look after the professional interests of our members around the world and during the current crisis we will be working hard to support you however we can.

The number of enquiries relating to COVID-19 is unprecedented, and in many instances the questions we are being asked are the same – regardless of the country in which the member practises. So, in an effort to answer as many as possible, the Q&As on this page are reflective of the advice we are sharing with members around the world.

The page features South Africa specific FAQ pertaining to the COVID-19 situation. To access our main Coronavirus FAQ hub please click here.

  • Having recently retired, I have been asked to return to practice to provide support during the COVID-19 crisis. Can I reinstate my membership with Medical Protection?
    In response to the work that healthcare workers are undertaking during the COVID-19 crisis, all retired or deferred members of Medical Protection will have their indemnity membership with us automatically reinstated completely free of charge. This is for state-indemnified work only.

    This means that whilst the state will indemnify your for any claims that could arise as a result of you undertaking this work, Medical Protection can offer assistance with other matters such as medicolegal advice and regulatory representation, support with complaints, disciplinary proceedings, inquests and criminal investigations arising from clinical practice.
  • I am a doctor considering volunteering in a State hospital. Does my membership extend to include this work?
    It is important to clarify with the Hospital the capacity in which you will be volunteering and if they are providing indemnity. If you are providing medical services as a General Practitioner but you have not worked in an Accident and Emergency setting previously, it is advisable to contact our membership department to make them aware.

    Before starting it is vital you seek written confirmation from the Province/Hospital as to your duties and to confirm that the Hospital will provide you with an indemnity in the event of a claim in negligence. MPS would expect you to remain within the limits of your competence.
  • I am deferring my membership due to my practice being temporarily closed – should I cancel my direct debit?

    No, please leave the direct debit instruction in place, we will not collect payments on this during the period of deferred membership.

  • Can I be sued if I refuse to see a patient who might have the virus? I don’t want to be infected.
    It is understandable that doctors on the frontline during the pandemic will have concerns regarding their own health and the risk of contracting COVID-19 infection. It also essential that patients can access the health care they require and it is important to take all available steps to minimise the risk before providing treatment or make other suitable alternative arrangements for the patient.

    If you have pre-existing health conditions that increase your risk of infection, you should discuss this with colleagues and if you are employed with your employer and in those circumstances it may be appropriate to ask another suitably qualified clinician to take over the care of patients who are suspected to have, or have been diagnosed as having, COVID-19.

    In a primary care setting it is advisable to consider all possible means of delivering care taking in to account the guidance from the government and the HPCSA.

    A problem faced by many is being asked to see patients, either thought to have COVID-19 or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, where there is either an absence of, or obvious shortfalls, in personal protective equipment (PPE).  The problem is exacerbated by the fact that it may be unlikely that the situation will change in the short or medium term.

    While the HPCSA expects health care professionals to put the best interests of patients first there is a strong argument that health care workers are a finite resource and the resource needs to be protected for future patients.  It is the South African Medical Association’s opinion, and we have independent legal advice, that one is not obliged to see or treat a patient in the absence of adequate PPE.

    Any decision not to treat a patient based on inadequate PPE may require subsequent justification and it is important to document and retain the relevant facts.

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The Medical Protection Society Limited (MPS) is a company limited by guarantee registered in England with company number 00036142 at Level 19, The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9SG. 

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