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HPCSA vs anti-abortion doctor: Defence wants charges dropped

Anti-abortionist Dr Jaques de Vos’s medical career has been stalled for more than two years because of a repeatedly delayed disciplinary action by the Health Professions Council of SA, writes MedicalBrief. Now, in the face of yet another HPCSA failure to provide the defence with basic information, the explosive possibility has been mooted that there never was a formal complaint against De Vos.

Lawyer Martus de Wet, reports a Cape Argus, "has cast doubt on the veracity of the facts brought by the HPCSA in a case against De Vos, a former 2 Military Hospital doctor".

This "added a new twist to the long-running saga" when he said that a delay by the HPCSA in providing the information needed for de Vos’s defence made it impossible for his lawyers to prepare for the hearing … "The only reasonable explanation for this failure by the HPCSA is that there never were such letters of complaint, nor was there ever such a statement."

A new date for the hearing was set for October 28.

According to a summary of events by Doctors For Life, in April 2017 De Vos, during his internship, was prematurely removed, without any hearing, from the Gynaecology and Obstetrics rotation at 2 Military Hospital, Wynberg and transferred to Casualty until the completion of the two-and-a-half year internship period (normally two years) that he was granted because of a disability.

"In June 2017 Dr De Vos tendered to complete the remaining time in the Gynaecology department if that would still be necessary for the successful completion of his internship. 2 Military Hospital refused and handed the matter to the HPSCA.

"After countless letters from his attorneys, the HPSCA eventually decided to charge Dr De Vos and set the disciplinary hearing down for August 2018, more than a year after he completed his internship period. Despite the severe prejudice to Dr De Vos of this long delay, he was given no explanation by the HPSCA.

"A week before the set down date the HPSCA unilaterally withdrew the charge – once again, no explanation was given. Precisely the same charge was reinstated a few months later in 2018, but the new hearing date stipulated by the HPSCA was now August 2019. Once again no explanation was given for this conduct by the HPSCA, including why the long delay before the next stipulated hearing date. 

"In July 2019 the charge was changed to totally different charges, including changing the date and year in which the alleged offences were committed. 

"Throughout the period from 2017 up until August 2019, Dr De Vos’s attorneys have been trying to obtain information about the charges in order that they can prepare a defence. This has not been forthcoming.

"At the hearing in August 2019 this was brought to the attention of the disciplinary committee. As a result of this the hearing could not proceed on that day. However the HPSCA representative undertook to have the relevant information to Dr De Vos by 30th August 2019. The new date set down for the hearing was at the end of October 2019. 

"As of today, 12th October 2019, the said information has not been given to Dr De Vos. This information includes basic things for example such as the original letters of complaint against Dr De Vos which are required by law before any disciplinary process can be initiated against a doctor. Another example is the statement by the woman who dr De Vos engaged about her decision to end the life of her 19 week old unborn child, the subject matter of one of the new charges. The only reasonable explanation for this failure by the HPSCA is that there never were such letters of complaint nor was there ever such a statement.

"The result of this conduct by certain doctors at 2 Military Hospital and the HPSCA, is that without a hearing, De Vos has been suspended from practising as a doctor for in excess of two years. He has also not been able to do his community service. Every delay in this matter has been the fault exclusively of the HPSCA and their various representatives. He thus has been severely punished, and continues to be punished, without any hearing or explanation.” 

In a letter dated 9 October 2019, De Vos's attorneys have now advised the HPSCA and the other parties concerned: 

  1. “Despite the daily severe prejudice to Dr De Vos flowing from the conduct of all concerned and the close proximity of his disciplinary hearing, other than Dr Molomo, no one else has responded to our urgent letter to you dated 30 September 2019.” 
  2. “Given the failure … to comply timeously with the undertaking concerning the information needed by Dr De Vos to prepare his defence, a fair hearing on the stipulated dates has now become impossible. Furthermore having regard to the Constitutional Court decision in Stokwe v Member of the Executive Council: Department of Education, Eastern Cape and Others (CCT33/18) [2019] ZACC 3, any further delay in this matter beyond the end of October 2019 would be unfair. All things highlighted in that judgment considered, not least of all the length of delay at your behest, the complete lack of explanation for this delay and the severe prejudice to our client as a result of this delay, there can be no other outcome but that the HPSCA immediately withdraw all charges against Dr De Vos.” 
  3. “Furthermore, to mitigate his losses suffered during the past 2 or so years, it is hoped that the HPSCA will accept that having served 2 ½ years internship he can now proceed to do his community service. In this regard, when making application for his community service you are hereby informed that unless you specify otherwise by the 11th October 2019, Dr de Vos will inform the hospital to which he makes application that he has completed his internship to the satisfaction of the Health Council/HPSCA and now qualifies to commence his community service. We are adopting this approach as our experience in the last two years is that all parties concerned simply either do not respond or fail to respond timeously to our letters/requests as regards the ongoing severe prejudice to Dr De Vos. Alternatively, they simply withdraw charges and then reinstate the same charges a few months later. Or they do not provide the necessary information to enable him to defend himself. The result of all this being, as we stated in our previous letter, that Dr De Vos has already been punished by not being able to practise as a doctor for more than two years, even though he has not yet had a hearing. AND AT THE END OF THE DAY HE HAS SERVED AN INTERNSHIP OF 2 ½ YEARS.”
  4. “We need to highlight that if after investigation it is established that individuals can be identified who were part of the cause of the unlawful damages suffered by Dr De Vos, especially from this letter forwards, such will be held accountable in their personal capacities. As we said in our previous letter to you, we do not see why the taxpayer should have to foot the bill for the negligence/mala fides of individuals.” 

The HPSCA and the other parties concerned also have not responded to this letter of 9th October 2019, the lawyers noted.

[link url=""]Cape Argus report (subscription needed)[/link]

[link url=""]Doctors for Life material[/link]

See also

[link url=""]HPCSA fails to meet the document deadline in De Vos case[/link]

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