High price for obstetrician consult

MEDICAL indemnity fees for obstetricians stand at almost R1 million a year affecting specialists and patients in various ways, including strain from long hours to exorbitant consultation fees, and for some, eventually leaving the field.

Dr Sibusiso Phinzi, formerly at Margate Netcare, said after “pulling” all the years in medical school to qualify and specialise in his passion the exorbitant fees for him to practice was a damper on his dreams.

“I love my work, nothing brings me greater joy than welcoming a new person into the world, but the extremely high medical indemnity fees is something that should be revealed to prospective obstetricians while they are still studying,” said Phinzi.

He said in government hospitals, the fee is even higher than the specialist’s salary. “The fee is approximately R88 000 per month for full protection and R35 000 for claims-based cover. A specialist in a government hospital is paid less than R88 000. Therefore you end working both in government and private sector for long hours in order for you to make profit, especially when you are starting,” said Phinzi.

Those in private practice make up the cost by increasing consultation fees, making the patient cover the difference that medical aid can’t, he said.

The prices which Phinzi said could go up to R2 000 per consultation often applies to gynaecology and obstetrician consultations.

Precious Gumede (28), of Gamalakhe said she has only visited a gynaecologist once because of the high consultation fees. “I went once when I was pregnant and the consultation was R900. They are way too expensive even if they are necessary,” said Gumede.

According to fin24 the fees have gone up by 382% - from R250 000 to R850 000 - in the past eight years not concurrent with the annual medical fund tariff increase which is usually at six percent per annum.

“This issue is not unique to South Africa - it occurred in other countries and they came with solutions such as standardising the amount paid per claim, amending the laws to minimise cases ending up in court,” said Phinzi.

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