‘Medical Mafia’ in control of health

2014-03-29 00:00

A NASTY feud between doctors in private practice and public service has revealed a “medical mafia” that stops at nothing to ensure private doctors retain the lion’s share of patients.

Allegations of harassment, intimidation, and threats have surfaced from several public service doctors in both Pietermaritzburg and Durban, who did not want their names revealed for professional reasons.

The public service doctors who are too scared to proceed with legal or criminal cases against their private counter-parts, for fear of tarnishing their reputation, simply turn a blind eye now and have resolved to stay in public service.

Public service doctors, who have constantly been on the radar for falsely moonlighting, this week spoke on how they were targeted by private sector doctors who feared them entering the private sector and poaching their patients.

Several public sector doctors revealed how they were threatened over the years when they made it known they were contemplating joining the private sector. Two of the doctors had to eventually seek legal recourse against the threats received and had to shelve their plans to join the private sector. They eventually ditched their legal recourse because of the publicity attached to it.

“Private doctors are extremely threatened by public sector doctors joining their fraternity. We are seen as a threat to their income and they keep their circles small and tight. Outsiders are not allowed to enter and if you try, your life will be made a misery,” said the one specialist surgeon who works at a public hospital.

He said a year ago he decided to leave the public sector to open a private practice and that was the worst mistake of his life. “My life really became hell after that. I had called a few friends in private practice to ask them about the market and then told them I was considering going into private practice and that was where it all began,” he said.

He said soon thereafter he began getting threatening phone calls from anonymous people telling him to rethink his decision to move into the private practice.

“It didn’t stop there. At conferences and work functions, these doctors would single us out, embarrass us, confront us and use bullying tactics. The worst was when they would degrade us publicly saying things like we are only good enough to work with public patients because we did not have their expertise; that public patients did not deserve to have better doctors working on them,” said the one doctor.

Another doctor said his harassment went a little further when threats to his personal safety were made.

“I had gone as far as setting up my private offices and resigning from the government. It was a matter of days before I went out on my own private practice and then the personal threats to my family and myself started.

“My wife began receiving telephone calls saying that I should be very afraid because I was in dangerous territory that I knew nothing about,” said the specialist doctor.

But it did not stop there.

“My private rooms were defaced by someone who scratched the door with a sharp instrument. A letter was slipped under the door saying ‘Go back to where you belong, we don’t want you here’,” said the doctor.

He said he eventually weighed his options and decided to stay in public service.

“It’s a cut-throat industry despite the fact that there are enough patients for everyone,” said the doctor.

He said the situation was also exacerbated if a new doctor on the scene charged in accordance to medical aid rates.

“Some of us have a real passion to save lives and see people in better health and it is not always about the money. Therefore, if we charged in accordance to medical aid rates, we were threatened.

“If you take a lowly-paid government employee who has medical aid, he will never be able to use his medical aid at most private doctors because their rates are at least two or three times higher than medical aid.

“That is the control they have in the industry,” said another doctor.

Private doctors approached by Weekend Witness shied away from the topic, saying they had some idea of the “medical mafia”.

“It’s not a blatant thing but we have heard of such incidents, especially in small towns, where the medical expertise pool is small.

“It’s everyone wanting to have their bread buttered best,” said the Durban private doctor.

A Pietermaritzburg doctor in private practice said he had also heard of the on-going tension between the two sectors.

“Why this is so, I do not know because there are more than enough patients for everyone to treat,” she said.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.