Monday, 23 May, 2022
HomeA FocusNeurologist lashes RAF chief’s ‘pitiful and preposterous excuses’

Neurologist lashes RAF chief’s ‘pitiful and preposterous excuses’

Responding to Road Accident Fund (RAF) CEO Collins Letsoalo attack on medical professionals for approaching Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo over non-payment for specialist reports, a leading Johannesburg neurologist has described Letsoalo’s justifications as “pitiful, far-fetched and preposterous”, reports MedicalBrief.

Letosala, as reported in MedicalBrief, said that the medical experts letter to Zondo was “unethical and potentially unlawful”. He urged Zondo to ignore their plea, contained in a templated open-letter, and accused them of distorting the facts regarding non-payment for work that the experts had done, commissioned by a panel attorneys that had represented RAF.

The doctors and allied medical professionals – owed some R163m in unpaid fees for expert opinions they were contracted to provide for RAF court hearings – have asked that those of their reports that had not been lodged in court be withdrawn, until the matter was settled. This would mean that RAF cases could not progress until payments were made for opinions obtained.

This week one of those unpaid medical professions, neurosurgeon Dr Percy Miller from Johannesburg, responded to Letsoalo’s reaction and elaborates on the experts’ frustration in not being paid for services rendered. He told MedicalBrief that more than 150 experts were affected by the “scandal”.

Miller said, contrary to Letsoalo assertions, there was no reason not to approach the judiciary, for what he likened to the “stealing of the fruits of our labour”. “"Any methods, short of violence, are acceptable in trying to recoup the money and time spent in providing thousands of reports to the RAF.

He described Letsoala’s as being “economical with the truth”, in his claim, quoted in a Daily Maverick article, that “that doctor” – Miller – charged R36,000 per report. “The irony is that while many of the so-called ‘friends’ of the RAF did charge large and exorbitant amounts of money, and were paid for this, I, in terms of my agreement with the RAF, stuck religiously to tariff: R12,000.00 per report approximately, and of course I can prove this.

“It would be impossible for the CEO to make such a statement on the basis of misapprehension or misinformation. The attempt was simply an unsubtle attempt to blacken my name,” Miller said.

Miller said that a meeting had been held in 2020 between the RAF CEO and various experts, including himself, just before the outbreak of the pandemic, during which Letsoalo had guaranteed they would all be paid “fully and completely”. There was no lack of authorisation for the expert reports, says Miller: “I personally was visited at my office by Mr I Briel and Miss M Maharaj from the RAF, who asked me to do the RAF work because of a backlog of neurology/neurosurgery cases.”

“If that is not a general authorisation for me to proceed, with them warning me there was a lot of work to be done to clear up the backlog, then nothing will be. I proceeded to do the work in 2015-2018, roughly 500 cases, of which 150 were paid, and 350, that were apparently ‘not authorised’  that have not paid been.”

Miller said he was acting not only for himself but for hundred of experts who had been shortchanged. “Their work often saved the RAF a tremendous amount of money, eliminating unnecessary litigation costs, and unearthing cases that were fraudulent and not deserving of compensation.”

Miller was scathing about Letsoalo claim of non-authorisation. “The explanation would actually be funny, were it not so pitiful, far-fetched and preposterous. The CEO states that there was an internal agreement between the panel attorneys and the RAF, during which the panel attorneys, before sending us instructions and the documents for the cases, would have to have permission from the RAF to appoint an expert in the first place, or a particular expert.

“That may have been the case at one stage, although the actual RAF directives and an answer to this in detail has been provided by the experts in their letters of reply to the CEO. But anyway, if that were an agreement, it was an internal agreement between the panel attorneys and the RAF, and we were not expected to know anything about this.

We were thus none the wiser when the attorneys sent us hundreds of cases, with instructions and documents, and asked us to do the reports, which we did. Each time the panel attorney received a case, the RAF staff would have known that an expert would have to be appointed to report on it, with which the panel attorney was now engaged with representing and defending the RAF.

“Therefore the RAF panel attorneys would have had to appoint, irregularly and erroneously, their own experts and doctors, ie from the panel of RAF doctors and experts provided and sanctioned by the RAF themselves, for every single case.”

It was simply not feasible, said Miller, that hundreds of attorneys working for RAF could have “gone off on a frolic of their own, ignoring RAF instructions”. If this indeed had happened, said Miller, it would represent “grossest negligence” by the RAF.

If there were other requirements expected of the experts, these should surely have been made clear to them as far back as 2015. “Hundreds and thousands of cases were being apportioned and should not suddenly have come to light much later on, when there was little the experts could do to rectify the situation.”

Miller said that Letsoalo was “casting aspersions”, that some experts were friendly with their attorneys, “ implying that a type of nepotism or corruption existed”. “Of course there is another explanation altogether, namely that an attorney may have been impressed with a particular expert who did good, efficient and effective work.”

Miller said that as a result of what was stated to be irregular referrals, the RAF eventually appointed the Vendor Rotation System (VRS) late in the day. Any corruption that might have existed, said Miller, became even worse. Many experts had been receiving at least some work from the RAF occasionally, but thereafter never received another case.

“The whole process (in terms of the VRS) became skewed and distorted, in an objectionable manner, towards experts who really now were “true friends" and with contacts among the RAF staff”.

Miller, who “semi-retired” in 2014 to do medico-legal work after a long career in both the public service and private practice, said he was pessimistic that any amount of correspondence to the Chief Justice, the Treasury, the Public Protector, and the Minister of Transport would resolve the plight of the unpaid medical professionals.

MedicalBrief made repeated attempts to contact RAF for comment. The listed contact numbers rang unanswered.

 

See more from MedicalBrief archives:

 

RAF chief attacks medical experts over ‘unethical and potentially unlawful’ letter to Zondo

 

RAF revolt: Experts withdraw medico-legal opinions over non-payment

 

RAF non-payments bringing practices to their knees

 

 

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