Unregistered dental assistants may face jail

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Dental assistants who are not registered with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) may soon be prosecuted or even imprisoned after their grace period to operate without licences comes to an end, reports Cape Argus.

Yesterday, the council said it was awaiting the final approval and promulgation of the Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi concerning amendments to the latest regulations governing dental assistants.

This follows a moratorium on criminal prosecution on these assistants, which was granted two years ago.

In March 2014, The North Gauteng High Court recommended that unregistered dental assistants not be subjected to criminal proceedings and the dentists employing them not be subjected to unprofessional conduct proceedings until March 31 this year.

This was to allow dental assistants to obtain the necessary qualifications.

The court ordered that after the moratorium, dental assistants be registered in accordance with legal regulations and that employers ensure that the assistants have achieved the required qualifications before they are employed.

In addition, anyone who employed an unregistered assistant would be found guilty and on conviction be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months or to both.

The SA Dental Association (Sada) – which originally made the court application against the health department regulation that assistants be registered with the council – later appealed the judgment.

However, in November last year, the Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed the decision of the North Gauteng High Court that dental assistants be regulated in order to protect the public and dental assistants themselves.

Daphne Chuma, the head of communications for the HPCSA, confirmed that the statutory body had submitted recommendations to Motsoaledi.

“These regulations and recommendations are awaiting final approval and promulgation by (Motsoaledi). As soon as the amended regulations are promulgated by the minister, unqualified, but experienced dental assistants will be registrable for a period of two years under these regulation.

“In order to remain registered they will need to complete a professional board examination,” she said.

Chuma added that there would be four examinations offered in each of the nine provinces each year and candidates would be afforded three opportunities to complete the board examination.

“Failure to successfully complete the examination will result in a discontinuation of registration as a dental assistant,” she said.

Dental assistants, who have not completed the board examination, would have to acquire a formal dental assisting qualification from the HPCSA’s recognised and accredited institutions of higher education.

Chuma said the council would try to ensure registration for dental assistants.

A new registration office for dental assistants would be operated for four months.

The department and Sada had not confirmed the council’s communication to them by the time of going to press.

Report on the Cape Argus site

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