Headlines and deadlines
248 doctors found guilty of delivering substandard care
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has revealed that 248 health professionals have been found guilty of incompetence, insufficient treatment and misdiagnosis in 306 cases between 2008 and 2012.
During this time, the HPCSA also issued 283 fines and 137 suspensions to doctors for misconduct. Figures show that doctors were found guilty in 20 cases of misdiagnosis since 2008.
Cases of incompetence rose from 18 (in 2010-11) to 32 in 2011-12. The number of cases involving insufficient care and mismanagement of patients more than doubled, with 44 cases reported in 2011-12 compared to 20 in 2010-11.
HPCSA registrar and chief executive officer Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba said the increase in medical errors was a big concern that the HPCSA and the health department would be investigating.
Doctors sceptical about insurance scheme
Some private doctors have voiced concerns about the Department of Health’s plans to enlist them to spend some time each week working in state clinics.
Since the National Health Insurance (NHI) system was launched in April 2012, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has been campaigning for private GPs to work at under-resourced state clinics in a bid to ease pressure on busy local practices. However, some private doctors have raised concerns about the plans, saying they believe they are being implemented from policy makers’ perspectives without considering the point of view of communities.
Some local doctors claim that plans under the NHI system would leave little opportunity to develop a “genuine relationship” with the Department of Health, leaving doctors feeling vulnerable to cuts. These groups are instead campaigning for specialist teams to be appointed by local hospitals instead of health department headquarters, saying that hospitals are better placed to identify their own community challenges.
Some local doctors claim that plans under the NHI system would leave little opportunity to develop a “genuine relationship” with the Department of Health
Dr Johan Olivier, a convener for an informal association of GPs in Knysna, said there was no clarity on how much doctors were to be paid or whether they would work from clinics or treat state patients in their rooms.
Dr Motsoaledi’s spokesman, Joe Maila, says that despite some concerns, most doctors are happy to co-operate with the plans. “The GPs are enlisting their names and we are consolidating them. We are further finalising the legal and contractual requirements to be entered into between the Department of Health and the practitioners,” he says.
February deadline for the non-registered
The deadline approaches for responding to an HPCSA warning, which was issued to unregistered medical practitioners – including corporate entities – regarding the employment of other medical practitioners.
To ensure compliance with the Health Professions Act, No 56 of 1974 (the Act), unregistered practitioners who are employing medical practitioners to provide medical services should “unbundle their structures” by February 2013.
Failure to do so will expose such medical practitioners to the risk of suspension and/or deregistration. It also potentially exposes anyone employing deregistered medical practitioners to criminal and civil liability.
Health claims rise to R1.4 billion
The Gauteng Health Department has announced that it is currently dealing with medical negligence or misconduct claims worth R1.4 billion.
Doctors’ low morale and poor working conditions were cited as the main reasons why errors occurred
In 2011, it paid out R876 million in compensation for medical claims, up from R665m in 2010. In 2012, it paid R44m in compensation for just five claims. Doctors’ low morale and poor working conditions were cited as the main reasons why errors occurred leading to a claim, although the HPCSA also recognise patients’ growing understanding of their rights as a contributing factor.
HPCSA reminds doctors of duties in emergency situations
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has issued a reminder to all healthcare practitioners of their obligations during an emergency situation with a patient.
Its statement says that doctors must first stabilise the patient and then arrange for an appropriate referral to another practitioner or facility if they feel they are unable to provide further treatment. It also says that a healthcare professional must not refuse a patient medical treatment in an emergency situation.
This advice is in line with Section 27 of the Constitution, the National Health Act, and the HPCSA’s ethical guidelines.