Health: 10 000 medics practising illegally after being suspended over unpaid fees

2012-11-06 00:00

ABOUT 10 000 health practitioners are practising illegally after their membership of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) was cancelled, and 1 093 of them are in KwaZulu-Natal.

HPCSA spokesperson Bertha Peters-Scheepers said the practitioners had failed to pay their 2012 and 2013 annual membership fees, which were due on or before April 1.

“It is a criminal offence to treat the public while not registered with the HPCSA,” she said.

Medical practitioners and dentists pay R1 243, psychologists R1 511, basic ambulance assistants R526 and environmental health practitioners R987.

The council said between 8 000 to 12 000 practitioners were suspended annually, but their names went back on the register as soon as they paid.

Not all those suspended are still practising in South Africa: some have quit and others have emigrated.

“Others perhaps just neglected to pay their fees and perhaps didn’t update their contact details with the council.”

SA Medical Association chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom said the situation was shameful in a country that had a shortage of doctors.

“It is important that every doctor understands that they need to pay for their licences to practise,” said Grootboom, adding that this was required by law and not voluntary.

He said those suspended included about 1 500 doctors.

“I really don’t know why a doctor wouldn’t pay.”

Another “amazing thing”, said Grootboom, was that some practitioners had been removed from the register because they owed between R7 and R200, perhaps because they had failed to update a debit order to take a fee increase into account.

KZN Health spokesperson Desmond Motha said the suspensions might affect the department adversely, but it could not allow unregistered doctors to practise. “It’s like driving a car without a licence.”

Patients can call 012 338 9301 to verify their practitioner’s registration status.

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