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Sick note fraud under investigation by HPCSA

An inspectorate of the Health Professions Council of SA is investigating about 50 doctors for issuing allegedly bogus sick notes.

Do you have a "severe headache" and fancy staying away from work? You can do so with a false sick note from a dodgy doctor for between R100 and R300, without even being diagnosed, reports The Times.

False sick notes are giving the Health Professions Council of South Africa a major headache and making the struggling economy bleed. The report says about 50 doctors are being investigated by the council for issuing allegedly bogus sick notes. An inspectorate, set up by the council, is looking into the fraud, which costs the country between R12bn and R16bn a year in lost productivity.

The report says Gauteng, where 25 doctors are being investigated, is the worst province. The Western Cape has 19 cases, of which 80% are in Khayelitsha, and KwaZulu-Natal has three.

The report says two Congolese locum doctors have in a Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court after being arrested in June by the Hawks, who also found a stash of sick notes. The two had been employed by Dr Ebenezer ‘Benz’ Ikuoyemwen Uduojie. Uduojie employed unqualified foreign medical students who stood in for him and even saw patients. He allegedly set up a network of bogus practices throughout the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

Other cases of medical malpractice being investigated by the council include: an allegedly bogus doctor in Pinetown, near Durban, who was selling sick notes; a medical practitioner’s sick-note pad that was stolen. It was allegedly used to sell sick notes to people in Mzamba, on the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape border; and doctor in KwaZulu-Natal who allegedly sold sick notes for between R100 and R300 without examining patients.

Council spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said a Western Cape doctor, Rasheed Mahfouz, had been disbarred. He was arrested on suspicion of operating an illegal practice and was suspended after he was found to have conducted his business unethically. Mahfouz was found guilty of practising outside the scope of the profession. It was found that he used another doctor’s practice. Sick-note pads belonging to the doctor and bearing his signature were confiscated, as well as medical-aid claims.

The council had received complaints about false sick notes being issued on a regular basis, she said. “[The complaints are] mostly from employers who would like to find out if the sick notes are compliant with the ethical rules, or where the employer is suspicious that the sick note is fraudulent.’

Sekhonyana said first-offender doctors found guilty of issuing false sick notes could be fined by the council up to R10,000 for each fraudulent note. Thereafter, they would be criminally charged.

The report says to deal with fraudulent sick notes, the council has established the inspectorate to enforce compliance and investigate the issuing of illegal sick notes by unregistered doctors. The office would work with the police in dealing with incidents, provided these were reported in time, said Sekhonyana.

[link url="http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/stnews/2016/12/11/Cops-council-crack-down-on-sick-note-scams1"]The Times report[/link]

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