Dodgy doctors to face Sars checks

2013-05-19 14:00

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Criminal charges on the cards for those defrauding the public.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is turning to the taxman to help nab state doctors who ditch patients during business hours to work in private clinics, hospitals and practices.

These public sector cheats are already being investigated by the national health department and its provincial counterparts.

Motsoaledi told City Press in an interview on Friday: “Criminal charges will be brought against those found guilty of defrauding the system.”

He hopes getting the SA Revenue Service (Sars) involved will help identify those doctors and specialists who are not declaring the tax on their private work.

Motsoaledi said: “There is a tendency in life that when you cheat you try to cheat your way out of everything.

“I want Sars to check if the people practising this are paying tax, because I don't want us to live in a society like that.”

The Limpopo, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal departments are collectively investigating more than 500 doctors it believes are cheating the public sector. Investigations started early last year.

Motsoaledi said some of the doctors being scrutinised in KwaZulu-Natal were caught out after submitting claims to medical aids for hours during which they were contracted to work in public healthcare. “If you work in a public hospital, you don’t claim any money from medical aid,” he explained.

Then there was the brazen doctor who claimed more money from medical aid than most doctors who run full-time private practices.

Motsoaledi said: “Surely there must be some form of criminality in this case.”

Public sector doctors are legally allowed to perform remunerative work outside public service, according to section 30 of the Public Service Act of 1994.

But the rules are clear: private jobs must not interfere with their commitments to the public sector.

Motsoaledi stressed it would be unfair to paint all doctors and specialists with the same brush.

“Not all doctors abuse the system. There are some who are dedicated to their work. They took the Hippocratic Oath and continue to stick to it.

“The few individuals who are doing this are not only punishing patients, they are also destroying the medical training in the country because they leave medical students to their own devices.”

Specialists in public hospitals are expected to work with and train junior doctors on the job.

He also had tough words for the private healthcare sector, saying it needed to stop enticing doctors with “perverse incentives”.

“This is going to destroy everybody in the long run.”

Sars spokesperson Adrian Lackay said he was not immediately aware whether Motsoaledi or his office had requested their help. But Lackay said Sars “would be happy to assist when the time comes”.

“We have worked with the department of health before and will continue to do so.”

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