Updated 11 September 2015

The Health Professions Council of SA is in for a major shake-up

A shake-up at the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is imminent, following a high-level inquiry into tender corruption to inefficiency at the troubled body.


The inquiry looked at complaints ranging from tender corruption to inefficiency at the council, which regulates a wide range of health professionals including doctors and dentists.

Inquiry chairperson Professor Bongani Mayosi confirmed that he had completed and sent his report to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

“I can’t say anything about it. I was working for the Minister. He has to read the report, digest it and decide what to do, but my understanding is that there will be an announcement this month,” said Prof Mayosi, who heads the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

However, those close to the process believe that the Minister is likely to recommend a substantial shake-up of the body, which has been dogged by complaints since it was set up in 1997.

“I have received a lot of complaints about governance, efficiency, effectiveness and sometimes even the competency of the management of the HPCSA," said Motsoaledi, when he announced the enquiry in March.

The public was invited to make submissions to the inquiry, and numerous organisations and individuals did so, including the SA Medical Association (SAMA), a voluntary association representing doctors.

Read: Sama warns of medical complaints

SAMA is so disillusioned by the “inefficient” council that it wants a separate structure for doctors and dentists, according to its vice-president, Dr Mark Sonderup.

“We want doctors and dentists to be afforded the same courtesy as pharmacists and nurses, by having our own independent regulatory authority,” said Sonderup.

Neither nurses nor pharmacists are part of the HPCSA, which insiders says is a cumbersome structure made up of 12 professional boards, including one that regulates doctors and dentists.

All health professionals that want to practice in South Africa are legally obliged to register with the HPCSA and pay fees, but the body has been criticized for years for being slow to register health professionals, particularly foreigners.

“Doctors are heavily taxed by the council through our membership fees but we have no voice and our issues are not dealt with efficiently,” said Sonderup, who added that meetings between SAMA and the HPCSA's medical and dental board to address problems had been “deeply disappointing”.

A 2007 amendment to the Health Act removed doctors’ powers to nominate members to represent them on the HPCSA medical and dental board, and representatives are now simply appointed by the Minister.

At least 30 staff members also made submissions to the enquiry, including some who claimed to have been fired for exposing corruption. Tender procurement irregularities concerning the use of the Oracle system to register doctors were also raised.

Health department spokesperson Joe Maila said the department would only comment once the Minister had studied the report properly.

Read more:

2013: HPCSA strikes thousands off the register
How to sue a doctor in South Africa
SA urged not to adopt American NHI model

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