JASA statement on resumption of payments to psychologists challenged as being misleading, containing “factual omissions”

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A statement from the Society for Industrial & Organisational Psychology of SA has been criticised by healthcare experts as misleading.

The release said that the SA Board of Healthcare Funders will have to resume making payments to psychologists after the Cape High Court ruled that the psychologists’ Scopes of Practice regulations issued by the Minister of Health in 2011 were invalid.

Healthman senior consultant, Dr Johann Serfontein, has responded saying that the JASA press release contained critical “factual omissions”

Dr Serfontein’s full response:

“Although the findings in this court case has declared the 2011 Psychology Scope of Practice regulations invalid, this declaration has been suspended for two years. Until such time as the Minister of Health revisits the public consultation process and publishes a revised scope of practice, the 2011 Psychology Scope Regulations remain valid, AS IS. If the Minister fails to revisit them in the next 24 months, the declaration will then be enforced and they will become invalid. We attach these 2011 Psychology Scope of Practice Regulations for your information.

“The press release by Justice Alliance of South Africa (JASA) creates the impression that the scope of practice regulations have been declared invalid with immediate effect, when this declaration has, in fact, been suspended for two years. JASA has wilfully omitted these key facts in their press statement. The current scope regulations are thus valid for the next 24 months, or until the Minister promulgates new Psychology Scope Regulations.

“The main points of the settlement agreement were as follows:

“The application by RELPAG/JASA to allow for psychology work outside of scope of practice has been suspended- they can take up the matter again in future.

“The 2011 Regulations defining Psychology scope of practice has been declared invalid due to procedural flaws in the consultation process, BUT

“This invalidity declaration was suspended for 2 years, to allow the Minister of Health to re-open the public consultation process before Psychology Scope Regulations are promulgated.
Disciplinary proceedings at the HPCSA will be considered on a case by case basis and disciplinary measures will be postponed until the new regulations are promulgated by the Minister.

“What this practically means, is that the 2011 Scope of Practice Regulations for Psychology stand until such time as the minister promulgates new regulations after public consultation, which needs to happen within the next two years. All categories of Psychology practitioners thus need to abide by these 2011 Psychology Scope of Practice Regulations (see attached document). If a psychologist in any registration category transgresses the scope contained in these regulations, complaints can be laid against them at the HPCSA. These complaints will be considered and disciplinary actions will be postponed until the new scope by the minister is promulgated. Should the actions fall outside the new scope, the practitioner will then be disciplined accordingly.

“Scope transgression complaints relating to conduct prior to 2011 will be judged against the 2008 scope regulations by the HPCSA and action taken as such.

“If a Psychologist wishes to practice outside of their current scope, they can apply for transverse registration in the category they wish to practice in. Their qualifications will then be judged by the HPCSA according to the category they wish to enter and they will required to complete the requisite additional Tertiary Training, Internship and Community Service (if required for the category being applied for).

“Medical scheme will be able to make their own funding decisions regarding which treatments will be funded for which Psychology category, as the 2011 Psychology Scope of Practice Regulations stand until new regulations are promulgated. The court did not address any issues of funding of treatments, as this did not form part of the case at hand. The BHF is not a regulatory body and does not make payments and cannot instruct member funds to make payments. Only the CMS can do this.”

The original JASA statment in full:

“The Cape High Court made an order yesterday, 14th November 2016, declaring the psychologists’ Scopes of Practice regulations issued by the Minister of Health in 2011, invalid.

JASA (the Justice Alliance of South Africa) and ReLPAG (Recognition of Life Long Learning in Psychology Action Group) had challenged the validity of the regulations. The Scopes of Practice reserve the most important work for a minority of psychologists, with the effect of depriving many South Africans of desperately needed psychological care.

“The order was the result of a settlement reached between the parties after the Minister acknowledged in papers that the regulations had not been properly passed. A costs order was made against the Minister of Health and Health Professions Council of South Africa for the major part of the applicants’ legal costs, including the costs of two counsel.

“The Board of Healthcare Funders, the fifth respondent, has agreed to abide by the outcome of the case, and consequently its members and the other medical aids, many of whom refused to pay psychologists purportedly working outside the Scope of Practice, will need to resume making payments.

“Various medical aids such as Polmed, GEMS, Bonita, Sizwe, Profmed and Medihelp followed a non-payment policy so causing major financial hardship to practitioners, forcing some out of practice and others to leave the country. Patients suffered a great deal also in being forced to leave psychologists who had served them for many years.

“JASA has been most concerned about the impact of the Scopes of Practice on ordinary South Africans. Research shows that one in three citizens suffer from psychological illnesses and there is a major shortage of psychologists in South Africa, particularly in remote areas.”

Society for Industrial & Organisational Psychology of SA material

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