SA and Namibia medical bodies vie for the laurel crown in incompetence

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Dr Michael J Pravetz speculates that there is an Olympiad in which the bureaucrats of medical oversight boards of South Africa and Namibia compete for the laurel crown in incompetence.

Pravetz writes:

Faceless bureaucrats functioning within the Health Professions Council of SA, as described in a previous MedicalBrief article (Being a doctor is a mugs game in SA), routinely demonstrate incompetence and negligence with total impunity. Now, it seems, South Africa’s medical board operatives have competitors in a reprehensible Olympiad, and they are just north of the border – the Medical Board of Namibia (HPCNA).

Within the stated mission of HPCNA is a vision of “protecting the public through regulating education and practice.” In 2012, the only Namibian medical school opened; by 2017 the medical school produced all of 35 graduates. It is no wonder that in 2020 every medical specialist in Namibia has been educated outside of that country.

I registered, as a South African medical graduate, with the HPCNA in 2012 and have since had more than just a glimpse at what makes the board deserving the laurel crown for incompetence. For starters: I simply wanted to inform the board of change of my address. After months of unanswered emails and other frustrations I eventually achieved what should, in most contexts, be a no brainer.

The HPCNA website advises that practitioners over the age of 67 can apply for fee exemption. This deceptively simple task resulted in my professional demise in Namibia. I downloaded, filled-out and submitted the proper forms along with the prescribed fee, well before the cut-off date for payment of annual fees. Time passed and not having received a confirmation of receipt, attempted to find out the status of my request. This again turned out to be a herculean task; the HPCNA website meticulously and deliberately omits names and e-mail addresses of managers and administrators, so I resorted to inquire via direct e-mail. Once again, not the courtesy of a simple response from anyone in any department at the HPCNA.

Fast forward six months, I received a registered letter signed by Cornelius Wyulu, registrar for the HPCNA, informing me that I have been expunged from the Medical Register of Namibia because I did not pay my fees. This letter also warned me of a severe fine AND imprisonment should I now dare to practice medicine in Namibia. This extrajudicial disciplinary action occurred not only without warning, but absent any semblance of due process.

What was the crime for which the HPCNA revoked my medical licence? Remember, this notice was dated two months into the international pandemic and national lockdown at a time when Namibia claims to have a shortage of medical practitioners.

Finally, a response. Wyulu confirmed that “communication from our side was not one of the best,” – no kidding. He proceeded to say that the HPCNA has a “system” to remind practitioners regarding maintenance of registration before any action is taken; he remained silent when asked to explain why this was absent in my case. Instead, Wyulu boasted that it “has been working well for most of the practitioners. We shall investigate how the message was send to you.” It never was.

“I noticed that all along you have been dealing with the then most junior staff at the Medical and Dental Council, in the person of Ms (name redacted) who has since left her position at the Council,” responded Wyulu, blaming his incompetent employee. In a peculiar twist, he blamed me for relying on her information. It is truly clear that HPCNA takes no responsibility for its employees or actions.

My final communication was received via normal South African surface post in what appeared to be a hastily written, pre-dated, post-facto fabrication to cover-up their incompetent tracks. HPCNA wants me to pay N860 in penalty fees, as well as N1,230 in annual fees. The Health Professions Council of Namibia is far from professional. In addition, I now must deal with the disgrace of a disciplinary removal of my name from the medical register.

Michael J Pravetz, PhD, MBBCh, MD, LLB, DOH


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