Doctors to be probed

2013-11-05 00:00

THE KZN Health Department has instituted a probe into doctors who allegedly run private medical practices while still employed by the department.

This emerged from a parliamentary reply from Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo when he responded to question from the DA’s Mark Steele.

“The department is currently investigating the allegations for 2012/13 financial year,” Dhlomo said in his reply.

He also said as soon the investigation was finalised, the South African Medical Association (Sama) or the South African Health Professions Council (SAHPC) would be advised accordingly.

Asked what measures were taken to stop moonlighting, Dhlomo said that paid work done by doctors outside their official tasks, was stopped in 2010 pending a review.

Steele asked the parliamentary questions after a letter was published in The Witness last month alleging incidents of state-employed doctors who were running private practises.

In the letter published on October 29, a Pietermaritzburg doctor who used the pseudonym John Freeborn, alleged that the problem of doctors moonlighting continued unabated.

“There are a number of doctors who are paid handsome salaries for working full time at Grey’s and Edendale hospitals, who also have rooms at one or more of our private hospitals in town,” the writer said.

“These doctors (physicians, surgeons, and gynaecologists, among others) are supposed to be at work at Edendale or Grey’s during the day, but they are actually operating and seeing patients at a private hospital instead,” wrote the doctor.

He added that there was nothing wrong in choosing to be either in private or public service, but not doing both.

Steele said yesterday allegations made in that letter about a number of doctors and medical specialists at Grey’s and Edendale Hospitals who moonlighted were alarming.

“Moonlighting is illegal and compromises the care patients in the public health care system are receiving,” he said.

Steele also said the response by Dhlomo that the department was currently investigating the moonlighting claims and would then refer disciplinary findings to SAHPC was unacceptable.

“Professional misconduct is the responsibility of the council, but the Department of Health is the employer of these doctors, and if these allegations are proven correct they are in breach of public service regulations.”

Steele said the department should speedily conclude the investigations and then move swiftly to take disciplinary action where it was appropriate.

“Moonlighting which goes unpunished undermines both the morale of other medical staff and the integrity of the institutions concerned, and the department must be seen to be acting firmly and decisively.”

The probe into moonlighting comes almost three years after the KZN Health Department banned doctors and nurses from moonlighting, arguing that the practice was illegal.

In January 2010 The Witness quoted the then department spokesperson Chris Maxon saying a circular was sent out to all staff informing them that moonlighting was banned “while the department reviewed controls and processes”.

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