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HomeMedico-LegalMEC's HPCSA hearing moved to 2024

MEC's HPCSA hearing moved to 2024

The disciplinary hearing by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) involving Limpopo MEC for Health Dr Phophi Ramathuba has been postponed again, this time to January next year.

The inquiry by the HPCSA's professional conduct committee, scheduled for 25-27 July and then postponed to 29-31 August, related to Ramathuba’s verbal tirade against a Zimbabwean patient in a Bela Bela hospital – captured on video in August 2022 – during which the MEC accused undocumented immigrants of draining the country’s resources.

Daily Maverick reports that her lawyer, Advocate David Madiba, argued that there were technical legal points that needed to be addressed, which included the issue of jurisdiction, pending litigation and potential bias of committee members.

In February, Ramathuba, a medical doctor, was sanctioned by the HPCSA’s Medical and Dental Professions Board after it found evidence of “unprofessional conduct” that violated regulations under the Health Professions Act. A “caution and reprimand” was imposed.

However, Ramathuba rejected the findings and the sanction, saying the HPCSA had no jurisdiction over her. The HPCSA disagreed and set the formal hearing dates of 25-27 July.

During this inquiry, her legal team reiterated the argument around jurisdiction, saying Ramathuba had conducted the conversation in her capacity as an MEC and not as a medical practitioner – thus, the HPCSA did not have jurisdiction.

But chair of the professional conduct committee, Advocate Justice Mogotsi, ruled that the HPCSA did indeed have jurisdiction over the matter as Ramathuba had maintained her registration with the HPCSA.

Mogotsi also said there was prima facie evidence of misconduct by Ramathuba and dismissed this point.

Status of pending litigation 

Ramathuba launched an unsuccessful bid in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to stop the 25-27 July hearing, but on 2 June, Judge Anthony Millar dismissed the application and ordered her to pay the HPCSA’s costs.

In July, Ramathuba decided to petition the Supreme Court for leave to appeal. During the inquiry in August, her lawyer, Madiba, told the committee the documents for this petition were en-route to Bloemfontein.

“It would be in the best interest for all if we can stay these proceedings until we have received the outcome of this pending litigation,” he said.

Mogotsi said the committee could not rely on word of mouth about the progress of this pending litigation, and dismissed the point.

Potential bias of committee members

The inquiry against Ramathuba stems from a complaint by Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia and Lawyers for Human Rights, supported by seven other civil society organisations, including the Treatment Action Campaign, Section27 and the Helen Suzman Foundation.

In August 2022, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) also lodged a complaint against Ramathuba with the HPCSA, saying the points raised by her in the video amounted to political grandstanding and that her behaviour (in her capacity as a medical practitioner) was prima facie unprofessional and/or unethical and should be investigated and possibly sanctioned by the HPCSA.

Madiba argued that an individual who was a member of an organisation that had lodged a complaint against Ramathuba, like SAMA, should not form part of the committee as they could have bias.

Mogotsi said Ramathuba did not have the prerogative to select committee members.

“The committee did not witness anything that would lead … to an apprehension of bias, and there is no merit for the committee member to recuse himself,” he said.

Madiba opposed this and said that including the committee member could bring the inquiry into disrepute. Ultimately, the committee member chose to recuse himself, and the inquiry was adjourned to 31 August while a replacement was found.

New dates 

Last Thursday, a new committee member was present but it was revealed that although he did not currently belong to SAMA, a few years ago he had been a member.

Madiba said this could still pose an issue and the member ultimately also recused himself.

During proceedings, Ramathuba was told a relative had died. Mogotsi agreed to the adjournment and said the committee would reconvene from 23-25 January 2024.

 

Daily Maverick article – Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba’s disciplinary hearing set to continue in January 2024 (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

MEC’s HPCSA hearing postponed

 

Limpopo Health MEC must ‘face the music’ for migrant remarks, judge orders

 

MEC to face inquiry after rejecting xenophobic rant sanction

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