An ongoing campaign "touting" for patients to lodge complaints against medical practitioners will bring adverse results, the SA Medical Association (Sama) said.
Dr Mark Sonderup, acting chairman of Sama, said the Health Professions' Council of SA's nationwide campaign was inappropriate. "Their mandate is to protect the public and to drive the profession, not to tout for people to complain against doctors," he said.
In March 2012, the HPCSA launched an intensive media campaign urging patients to report unethical conduct and other medical malpractice.
At the time, HPCSA president Sam Mokgokong said the campaign was expected to result in an increase in complaints from both the public and private sector.
Lack of docs will hamper NHI
"What have they done to increase professionalism among the country's (medical) practitioners?" asked Sonderup.
As a result of the scrutiny and fear of the litigation processes doctors would have to conduct unnecessary examinations, which would hurt their patients financially.
Sonderup refuted HPCSA claims that professionalism was on the decline among South African doctors. He said they were well-trained and practised "common sense medicine".
"I think the United States is a prime example of what litigious medicine does to the health system. It drives up costs enormously. Patients have to report genuine grievances, but to encourage willy-nilly reporting is dangerous."
Sonderup said Sama believed the lack of doctors, equipment, and infrastructure would hamper the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
"The focus around the NHI has been: how are we going to pay for it? There is very little sense or debate on what we actually need.
NHI not answer to everything
"We are not going to wait for the NHI to be the panacea to answer all the things. The infrastructure of public healthcare has to increase. If you don't address that, everything else is essentially doomed to fail."
Commenting on the medical skills shortage, Sonderup said research had revealed that around 23,000 doctors working in developed countries like New Zealand and Australia were South African-trained.
Sama's public sector doctors' committee chairwoman Dr Phophi Ramathuba agreed, saying patients would suffer financial implications as doctors tried to avoid drawn-out litigation.
"You (HPCSA) are going to make us not to treat the patients according to the protocols of medicine, but by saying if I don't do an X-ray will I be litigated? If I don't do a scan, what will happen?
"You are pushing the cost of health to be very high if you move medicine from being an ethical profession to become an issue of being afraid of what lawyers will do," said Ramathuba.
Sacrifice by docs unnoticed
She said much commitment and sacrifice by doctors was going unnoticed. A Doctor's Day would soon be launched to honour the life-saving endeavours.
Ramathuba said South Africa had to undertake an extensive drive to lure back the large numbers of doctors who had left the country.
Sama questioned the logic of South Africa training its doctors in Cuba.
"The amount of resources being spent on training those young colleagues, can we not take it and plough it in what we need here? You are training people and bringing them back into a system where you have to spend some time re-training them. Can we not accommodate them in our own system? asked Sonderup.
(Sapa, April 2012)
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