HPCSA shake-up expected following inquiry

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A shake-up at the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is imminent, following a high-level inquiry into the troubled body, says a Health-e report. The Ministerial task team looked at complaints ranging from tender corruption to inefficiency at the council, which regulates a wide range of health professionals including doctors and dentists.

Task team chair Professor Bongani Mayosi confirmed that he had completed and sent his report to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. "I can’t say anything about it. I was working for the minister. He has to read the report, digest it and decide what to do, but my understanding is that there will be an announcement this month," said Mayosi, who heads the department of medicine at the University of Cape Town. However, those close to the process believe that the minister is likely to recommend a substantial shake-up of the body, which has been dogged by complaints since it was set up in 1997. 2I have received a lot of complaints about governance, efficiency, effectiveness and sometimes even the competency of the management of the HPCSA," said Motsoaledi, when he announced the inquiry in March.

The public was invited to make submissions to the enquiry, and numerous organisations and individuals did so, including the SA Medical Association (SAMA), a voluntary association representing doctors. SAMA is so disillusioned by the "inefficient" council that it wants a separate structure for doctors and dentists, according to its vice-president, Dr Mark Sonderup. "We want doctors and dentists to be afforded the same courtesy as pharmacists and nurses, by having our own independent regulatory authority," said Sonderup.

Neither nurses nor pharmacists are part of the HPCSA, which insiders says is a cumbersome structure made up of 12 professional boards, including one that regulates doctors and dentists. All health professionals that want to practice in South Africa are legally obliged to register with the HPCSA and pay fees, but the body has been criticised for years for being slow to register health professionals, particularly foreigners.

"Doctors are heavily taxed by the council through our membership fees but we have no voice and our issues are not dealt with efficiently," said Sonderup, who added that meetings between SAMA and the HPCSA's Medical and Dental Board to address problems had been "deeply disappointing".

A 2007 amendment to the Health Act removed doctors' powers to nominate members to represent them on the HPCSA medical and dental board, and representatives are now simply appointed by the minister. This means that they are not accountable to those they are supposed to represent but to the politician who appointed them.

At least 30 staff members also made submissions to the task team, including some who claimed to have been fired for exposing corruption. Tender procurement irregularities concerning the use of the Oracle system to register doctors were also raised. National Health Department spokesperson Joe Maila said the department would only comment once the minister had studied the report properly.

Health-e material

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