A group of doctors is demanding the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) should be taken to account after little has been done following a damning ministerial task team report.
A strong regulator needed
The South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) and the Federation of South African Surgeons (FoSAS) are pressing for the recommendations contained in the ministerial task-team report to be implemented in full, including the separation of the Medical and Dental Board from the rest of the council.
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“We want to make it clear that we want a strong regulator, in the interest of our own professions. Protecting the public and guiding the profession should work together. We expect the HPCSA to be more consistent, stronger and more sensible in the decisions they make,” says Natalie Zimmelman, CEO of SASA.
They also claim there is no consistency or accountability in policies and procedures and that the body is not responding to requests for guidance. Examples of its lack of accountability include the excessively long time the council takes to prosecute complaints of unethical behaviour, unreasonably long waits for health professionals – and foreign doctors, in particular – to be registered, a lack of responsiveness to requests for clarity and a “dire lack of governance”.
In November 2015 Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi made the scathing report public, which found the council was filled with unfit management and was in “a state of multi-system organisational dysfunction”. At the time the minister promised sweeping changes at the body.
Read: HPCSA urged to implement external recommendations
The investigation was led by University of Cape Town medicine department head Professor Bongani Mayosi and revealed “evidence of administrative irregularities, mismanagement and poor governance” at the HPCSA.
'Little has been done'
“[This dysfunctional system] is resulting in the failure of the organisation to deliver effectively and efficiently on its primary objects and functions,” Motsoaledi said.
But it seems little has since been done to implement any changes.
“We want our regulator to do a better job and to be accountable to the healthcare profession in order to effectively protect the public. Currently, it does not seem able to do this and there appears to be zero focus by the medical professionals nominated to the HPCSA on providing guidance,” says Zimmelman.
Read: Heads to roll at HPCSA
Meanwhile the HPCSA denied that nothing has been done since the release of the report.
“The HPCSA has been and will continue to report to the minister regarding measures that it will be embarking on to ensure that all the legal aspects have been resolved and ensure that an outcome is achieved that will set the HPCSA on a path of full functionality,” says Priscilla Sekhonyana, communications manager of the HPCSA.
Unreasonably long waits
“[We have] an open door policy to all its key stakeholders; being the practitioners themselves, associations and the public. HPCSA has recently received communication from SASA requesting answers on various issues and HPCSA has diligently responded to each issue raised, and also provided documentation where requested.”
According to Sekhonyana they are currently reviewing the time it takes to process complaints of unethical behaviour. “It is hoped that a complete overhaul of the system will result in an efficient system based on quicker turnaround time frames.”
With regards to the unreasonably long waits for health professionals, especially foreign doctors, Sekhonyana says many do not comply with the registration requirements. “This delay would then be attributed to the HPCSA; meanwhile this was a delay from the practitioner’s side.”
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