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Why you need Medical Protection

03 August 2023


Dr Michaela Wells offers advice to those preparing for the move to community service.

Here is my story...

At some point while you are studying at university you would have been approached by an ambassador or representative from various medical insurance companies. They gave you a presentation, maybe a free pen and a flyer and then circulate a membership form where you can sign up.

But I'm sure most of you never knew what you were signing up for, or even listened to what they had to say. Since you didn't need the malpractice insurance while studying, you likely thought to yourself 'l will cross that bridge when I qualify'. Then at some point you were probably given a sponsored set of scrubs from one of these companies and you still did not take much note. You then qualified as a doctor, and become an intern and then a community service officer, and possibly received emails from those same companies reminding you to renew your membership. You might have eventually responded to the fifth email reminder or ignored them completely.

Well that's how my story goes and that was what happened to me.

When I was a student I signed up with Medical Protection, and I have absolutely no recollection of filling in a form, but I know at some point I put my name down. But three months into my community service I received an email from the HPCSA saying that a case has been laid against me by a patient, and that a response is required before a certain date. I was surprised as the nature of the claim did not make sense to me.

I contacted the correspondence person assigned to my case from the HPCSA, and they agreed the claim was strange and said I did not need any legal representation — they would help me sort it out. Needless to say I was concerned and stressed and started phoning around. The third place I called was Medical Protection and they said unfortunately they will not be able to help as I was not a member at the time of the incident. A few hours later the local area representative for Medical Protection called me and informed me I was indeed a member during my internship and that they would be able to help me. It was then that I remembered the numerous emails to renew my membership for community service, which I had ignored.

I was contacted by a lawyer who took over the case and handled all the correspondence with the HPCSA. Luckily my story had a good ending, and the case was closed due to the patient not responding. Needless to say, I paid my membership for community service immediately.

When you are an intern or community service doctor, you feel you are protected and that claims can not be laid against you but this is not the case. So please be informed and make sure that you pay your medical practice insurance. Do not ignore the emails and reminders like I did, because when you need them and you have not paid you annual fee, you will not have cover. To pay a lawyer to help you with the case will be really expensive!