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High insurance scares off SA specialists

High insurance costs are scaring off specialists with only three paediatric surgeons in the country and all of them working in the public sector, reports The Times. The reason: medical insurance costs make it impossible for these doctors to make a living in private practice.

Specialists say they are worried this was an example of things to come, as new doctors avoided specialising in disciplines in which insurance costs are too high.

Since 2013 gynaecologists' insurance rates have increased by 60%, with all gynaecologists starting the year with a R450,000 insurance bill.

Medical negligence lawsuits have grown in popularity, with payouts often averaging more than R15m leading to sky-rocketing insurance costs.

Gynaecologist and head of the SA Private Practitioners Forum, Chris Archer, said new doctors were not specialising in gynaecology. Most specialists are now aged over 55.

Archer warned of a severe shortage of gynaecologists in the next few years, saying many were considering early retirement as rising insurance costs made their work unprofitable.

Insurance for neurologists has increased by 62% over the past two years.

From this month, neurologists will pay R406,230 per annum for medical insurance.

This is one of the reasons newly qualified neurologists cannot make a living in private practice.

Professor Allan Taylor, of the University of Cape Town’s neurology department, said as all public sector positions were filled, young neurologists were taking up jobs overseas.

He said while it was not ideal that children were operated on by neurologists specialising in adult surgery, it was not financially feasible for paediatric neurologists to work in the private sector.

Taylor said most neurologists admitted sending patients for tests such as MRIs when it was unnecessary. Although it increased costs substantially for patients, it was to protect the doctor in case of lawsuits.
Doctors also avoided high-risk surgery, leaving patients needing risky brain operations looking for help elsewhere.

Medical Protection Society spokesperson Rajiv Pattni explained that insurance had to cover operations that could result in catastrophic injuries that would leave patients needing long-term and expensive care.

[link url="http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2015/01/11/high-insurance-costs-scaring-off-specialists."]Full report in The Times[/link]
[link url="http://www.samj.org.za/index.php/samj/article/view/8336/6310"]South African Medical Journal article[/link]

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