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MEC's HPCSA hearing postponed

The disciplinary inquiry by the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) into Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba’s unprofessional conduct, which was set to take place from 25-27 July, is now set down from 29-31 August.

The case follows Ramathuba’s rant against a Zimbabwean patient in a Bela Bela hospital being captured on video in August 2022, and widely circulated on social media.

However, reports Daily Maverick, her legal representative, Advocate David Madiba, argued last week that the inquiry should be postponed because a pre-inquiry conference had not taken place, that there was pending litigation on the matter, and that Ramathuba was not available.

The Regulations Relating To The Conduct Of Inquiries Into Alleged Unprofessional Conduct, under the Health Professions Act, stipulate that to determine the issues in dispute, a pre-inquiry conference must be attended by both parties or their legal representatives at least seven days before the inquiry.

Madiba said that this had not taken place because there had been “a miscommunication” between the two parties about the time of the inquiry.

Pending litigation

Ramathuba, a medical doctor, had been sanctioned by the HPCSA’s Medical and Dental Professions Board in January after it found evidence of unprofessional conduct in violation of regulations under the Health Professions Act.

She was handed a “caution and reprimand” for “shouting at the bedside of a patient”, which was “unbecoming” of a medical professional.

But the MEC rejected the findings and the sanction, and wrote to the HPCSA challenging this, on the basis that it had no jurisdiction over her. The HPCSA disagreed and set the formal hearing dates of 25-27 July.

Ramathuba launched an unsuccessful bid in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) to stop the hearing, however, saying she had conducted the conversation in her capacity as an MEC and not as a medical practitioner.

On 2 June, Judge Anthony Millar dismissed the application and ordered Ramathuba to pay the HPCSA’s costs.

“The respondent (Ramathuba) in this matter has now taken a decision that the SCA (Supreme Court of Appeal) be petitioned for leave to appeal, and her reasons are that… a court of law ought to hear the matter and determine whether or not in circumstances, such as the current where a person performing her political responsibilities as an MEC, should be brought within the jurisdiction of this committee,” said Madiba.

No-show from Ramathuba

But despite Ramathuba being aware from 29 March 2023 that the misconduct inquiry would take place last week, she was not present.

“She had to travel for official business to Australia… to attend an HIV science conference,” said Madiba.

He said her absence was “not because this inquiry is not important, but because the other commitments that pertained really required her to do so”.

Chair of the professional conduct committee, retired Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, said the committee granted the postponement and each party would pay their own costs.

Shongwe added the provisions that, on or before 29 August, the parties must have served and filed the minutes of the pre-inquiry conference and that the inquiry on 29-31 August would proceed with or without Ramathuba’s presence.

The ongoing HPCSA inquiry into her conduct stems from a complaint by Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), which is supported by seven civil society organisations including the Treatment Action Campaign, SECTION27 and the Helen Suzman Foundation.

Sharon Ekambaram, head of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Project at LHR, said Ramathuba’s absence demonstrated the contempt she and her office had for the constitutional values of respect for human rights and dignity of all who lived in South Africa.

 

Daily Maverick article – Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba’s disciplinary hearing postponed to August (Open access)

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

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

 

Limpopo Health MEC loses bid to stop HPCSA inquiry

 

MEC to face inquiry after rejecting xenophobic rant sanction

 

 

 

 

 

 

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