Category: Ethics

Cracking the Whip on Fraud, Waste and Abuse at This Week’s BHF Forensic Unit Indaba

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

A realistic update on the amount of funds lost to fraud, waste and abuse in the South African healthcare environment as well as a special address dedicated to the value and protection of whistle blowers will lead discussions during the annual Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) Healthcare Forensic Management Unit (HFMU) Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) Indaba at The Houghton in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 22 November.

Convened to coincide with International Fraud Awareness Week and to be moderated by BHF Forensic Unit chair, Dr Hleli Nhlapo, the Indaba spotlight will be on “Strengthening a Culture of Integrity and Accountability – New Strategies for a Corruption Resistant Future “ – subject of the keynote address.

The event will once again endorse the BHF’s representative role as a guardian of the interests of medical schemes, administrators and managed care organisations not only in South Africa but also Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and eSwatini.

To this end an unprecedented feature this year will be a panel discussion by Southern African Development Community (SADC) members on strengthening anti-corruption efforts in the SADC Region with cross-border co-operation.

“Promoting the culture of whistle blowing and the protection of whistle blowers” will be a significant key point on the Indaba agenda with the promise of a lively discussion on the encouragement of whistle blowing with the non-negotiable proviso that specific mechanisms should be put in place for corruption reporting without repercussions. 

Until last year fraud, waste and abuse losses in South Africa were generally estimated at just under the R30-billion mark, but as pointed out by the Special Investigating Unit’s Advocate Andy Mothibi at the BHF Conference earlier this year, this figure was likely to be a lot higher.

Fraudulent activities relating to false claims was still a major contributing factor to these losses, he explained, alluding to an observation that anything between 5% and 15% of all medical aid claims could include elements of FWA.

Spurious activities in this regard will no doubt emerge in some of the answers to the Indaba agenda question “Is there ‘Rent Seeking’ in our Healthcare System?” – “rent seeking” being an economic term for an individual who or an entity which seeks to increase their own wealth without creating any benefits or wealth by activities which aim to obtain financial gains and benefits through the manipulation of the distribution of economic resources.

In the same vein, the discussion on “Cracking the Code: Uncovering and Combating Organized Crime Networks in Healthcare”, should shed light on current FWA challenges followed by collaborative measures to counter these such as the use of the HMFU FWA portal introduced four years ago with the prime objective of combating healthcare fraud, waste, and abuse.

Another important element of FWA which has risen to the fore particularly since the successes of the SIU, has been the recovery of lost funds. This will be the focal point of a presentation “Navigating the Road to Restitution: Strategies for Successful Civil Claims Recovery in Healthcare” during which a series of steps to recover losses from wrongdoing or fraud in healthcare are scheduled to be presented.

Going by previous deliberations on the topic, these are likely to emphasise the need for a dedicated legal team with healthcare law and fraud recovery expertise and a commitment to justice for fraud and misconduct victims.

The day’s proceedings will conclude with the SADC member panel discussion on “Cross border Co-operation: Strengthening Anti-Corruption Efforts in the SADC Region”.

Members are expected to deal with important issues such as, not least, the protection of whistle blowers, as well as encouraging healthcare workers in their specific countries to report corruption risk-free with the promotion of law enforcement capabilities and related awareness campaigns.

Terminally Ill Patients Need More than Prayer from Spiritual Leaders

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A study conducted among advanced cancer patients in Soweto has found that most patients who received palliative care and are at the end of life, have spiritual needs beyond regular prayers from spiritual leaders. Furthermore, patients who received religious or spiritual care had less physical pain, used less morphine and had higher odds of dying where they wish than those who did not.

The study involving 233 participants was conducted by a team of local and international experts led by Wits researchers.

Lead researcher Dr Mpho Ratshikana-Moloko from the Centre for Palliative Care in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits University says that previous research has shown that religion and spirituality are important to most patients facing life-threatening illnesses. However, this study probed further.

Using the African Palliative Care Association Palliative Outcome Scale, the research confirmed previous international findings that nearly 98% of the participants had a religious or spiritual need.

The most common spiritual need expressed by patients in Soweto was “seeking a closer connection with their God” and “forgiveness for sins”, says Ratshikana-Moloko. This finding is of significance because it calls on faith leaders to provide relevant support that responds to the needs of patients. This research-led intervention empowers leaders to move beyond prayer, explains Ratshikana-Moloko.

“This is the first study to assess the spiritual and religious needs, and religious and spirituality care provided to advanced cancer patients who received palliative care in Soweto,” says Ratshikana-Moloko.

Since the study was concluded in 2018, Wits University has developed a course in Spiritual and Chaplaincy in Palliative Care. The first cohort of faith leaders from all religious backgrounds completed in September 2023.

Palliative care to increase

Palliative care is one of the key pillars in illness management among terminally ill patients who are judged by a specialist physician as unlikely to benefit from curative-intent therapy. Often, patients are unlikely to survive beyond six months.

The South African National Policy Framework and Strategy for Palliative Care (2017–2022) incorporates spirituality into health care. However, palliative care services in South and southern Africa and elsewhere, rarely address these needs, despite available policies, guidelines and evidence.

“We have to implement what we know. The integration of spiritual care within the clinical care setting is recommended,” Ratshikana-Moloko.

South Africa faces a heavy burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. One in six deaths globally is due to cancer, and cancer diagnoses are expected to increase by 70% in the next two decades, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

“Failure to identify and address the religious and spiritual needs of terminally-ill patients may increase distress and suffering,” Ratshikana-Moloko.

Medical Gaslighting: When Conditions Turn out not to be ‘All in the Mind’

By Caitjan Gainty, Senior Lecturer in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, King’s College London

Photo by cottonbro studio

Gaslight, a psychological thriller starring Ingrid Bergman, was a box-office hit when it was released in 1944, but its time in the limelight could have ended there. However, the ruse employed by its villain gave the work remarkable staying power.

Set in 1880s London, the story plays out in the upper-middle-class, gas-lit home of Gregory and Paula Anton. Gregory is intent on making Paula think she is going insane so that he can have her committed to a mental institution and claim her inheritance. He attempts to convince her that the gas lighting in their house, which the audience can see is flickering, is not really flickering. What her senses tell her is a lie – a sign of her steady descent into madness.

Today, the term “gaslighting” is widely used to describe psychological manipulation, where a person is made to doubt their perception of reality. Politicians are accused of it, as are celebrities. The term also used in discussions about health.

Medical gaslighting refers to cases in which a healthcare practitioner imposes a pattern of questions, testing or diagnosis that runs counter or tangential to the history or symptoms the patient is describing or experiencing.

There is usually a clear power imbalance at play. More often than not, gaslit patients are women, members of the LGBTQ community, people of colour and older adults.

It is a painful reminder that medicine does not occupy a rarefied space apart from society and history. Those who are socially, culturally, politically or economically marginalised don’t find that this experience suddenly changes when they walk through the clinic door.

In many ways, the term gaslighting is an apt fit for medical settings, especially when it comes to the common refrain: “It’s all in your head.”

One of the best-known examples relates to heart disease, where a woman’s symptoms are twice as likely as a man’s to be simply written off as mental illness. This missed diagnosis is often explained by the fact that women’s heart attack symptoms are “strange and unpredictable” (compared with a man’s “normal” symptoms). However, that excuse doesn’t hold water – there is a large overlap in heart attack symptoms between the sexes.

Elsewhere, social media and news reports are full of egregious examples of women being medically gaslit. There are those whose cancer reached an advanced stage before they could get a doctor to take them seriously. And those whose lives were imperilled by a doctor who dismissed their pain as anxiety, as postpartum depression, as not nearly as bad as they think it is.

Examples of medical gaslighting also accrue around chronic but poorly understood diseases. In recent years, there’s been the medical community’s slow and halting recognition of long COVID. Before that, it was long Lyme disease or chronic fatigue syndrome, as Jennifer Brea’s 2017 documentary Unrest movingly shows.

Algorithmically out of whack

Yet medical gaslighting is a far more complex creature than gaslighting in other contexts. While Gregory’s attempts to gaslight his wife were malicious and intentional, medical gaslighting quite often overlaps with a more basic problem in medicine: misdiagnosis.

In many cases, misdiagnosis occurs not because an individual doctor is being malicious or even intentionally – though perhaps unconsciously – prejudiced, but because the symptoms they observe in the patient before them are “algorithmically” out of whack with the standard set of symptoms and characteristics they have been taught to look for and associate with different diseases.

Since these algorithms were explicitly built around heterosexual white men, it makes sense that the vast majority of those who have experienced medical gaslighting or misdiagnosis hail from beyond this extremely narrow band of the population. But even at a more basic level, individuals are simply not standard. Human bodies don’t conform as closely to the algorithms as medicine would ideally like them to.

“The bottom line,” as one doctor put it, “is that diagnosis is hard.” It does not help that research into diagnosis is never as well-funded as research into treatment.

That’s not to say there aren’t any covert (or overt) Gregory Antons out there in medical practice, of course. But it does mean that if we want to address medical gaslighting, the answer is probably not as simple as training medical professionals to be more sensitive to their patient’s descriptions of their symptoms.

Indeed, the very foundation of modern medicine agitates against this kind of attention to individual symptoms, asking medical professionals instead to measure patients against a set of standards – to think statistically as they make their diagnostic decisions.

Until a much greater part of society is included in that statistical reckoning, we can expect medical gaslighting to remain a part of our medical experiences. And even if or when that happens, our system will still be one that grapples with the difficult task of matching the emphatically square holes of symptom and diagnostic categories with the differently shaped realities of individual symptoms and illness experiences.

The Conversation

Republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons License. Read the original article.

Elevating Patients’ Voices for Greater Healthcare Safety

With four in ten patients injured in primary and outpatient healthcare and 134 million adverse events occurring on the back of unsafe care in hospitals globally every year,1 World Patient Safety Day aims to address the avoidable challenges that will bolster patient safety across the healthcare spectrum.

Even in an era marked by incredible innovation and advancements in medical science, the reality is that within the four walls of the hospital environment, patients continue to face preventable challenges that could potentially threaten their health and well-being.

Recognising the seriousness of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its World Patient Safety Day initiative in 2005 to increase awareness of unsafe healthcare, and to drive high-level support and commitment to address patient safety issues across all parts of the world.2

Bada Pharasi, CEO of the Innovative Pharmaceutical Association of South Africa, adds that under the theme of “engaging patients for patient safety”, World Patient Safety Day 2023 is positioned to recognise the crucial role that patients, families and caregivers play in safety in the healthcare sector.3

“Patients are the core of all healthcare systems, and evidence shows that when patients are treated as partners in their care, significant gains are made in safety, patient satisfaction and overall health outcomes,” explains Pharasi.

Patient safety is fundamental to delivering quality and essential health services and prevents and reduces risks, errors and harm to patients. A cornerstone of this lies in continuous improvement based on learning from errors and previous adverse events that have impacted patient well-being.  

More than 10% of patients have experienced harm due to negligence during treatment, and alarmingly, this has resulted in over three million deaths globally every year.5 Even more concerning is that up to 80% of these instances are avoidable, with the most significant factors accounting for these errors being related to misdiagnosis and the prescribing and use of incorrect medications.1

“An integral part of addressing this plight is to elevate patients’ voices,” adds Pharasi. “This can be accomplished by ensuring that patients are involved in policy formulation, represented in governance structures, engaged in co-designing safety strategies, and are active partners in their own care.”3

Here, patients should enquire why the medication has been prescribed, how long the medication will take to resolve symptoms if the medication can be taken with others, and what are the potential side effects of the medication.6

Furthermore, patients should be cognisant of not taking medication prescribed to someone else, discarding medicines that have passed their expiry date, never exceeding dosage recommendations, carefully reading the patient information leaflets included with medications, and being aware that some medications may contain addictive substances.

For patient safety strategies to be successful, patients need to report instances where they have been prescribed the incorrect medication and the adverse effects it may have caused. To report these, patients can record their complaints on the Med Safety app, the SAHPRA e-reporting portal on its website, or via email or telephone.7

“As IPASA, we are committed to a healthier South Africa and a patient-centred healthcare system. We support the WHO mandate to ensure safer patient treatments and outcomes, and strive to continue informing healthcare professionals and patients about the benefits and risks of pharmaceutical products. In doing so, we believe we can make a notable difference in ensuring patient safety across all facets of the South African healthcare sector,” concludes Pharasi.  


Whistleblower Spills More Details of Alleged Fraud at Mediclinic Hospitals

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The furore over claims of fraudulent account manipulation happening at Mediclinic hospitals continues to grow, as the initial whistleblower responded to a challenge for more information by providing a detailed list of of starting points for investigators, according to Daily Maverick.

Widely reported in media outlets such as News24, Radio 702, and eNCA, the initial email alleged that hospital codes were being altered to ones which drew higher remunerations from medical aid schemes and therefore which financially benefitted the hospitals. They further claimed that no action was being taken against employees who were engaging in this practice, which was supposedly happening at six hospitals.

The Council for Medical Schemes noted that hospital charges to beneficiaries had increased by nearly 19% from R7039.74 in 2020 to R8346.40. Just over 92% of the total hospital expenditure was paid to private hospitals.

Greg van Wyk, CEO of Mediclinic Southern Africa, was also emailed among the initial recipients. He responded swiftly, writing in a reply to all the cc’d recipients last week that Mediclinic had appointed Steven Powell, head of law firm ENSafrica’s forensics practice, to head its independent audit.

The Mediclinic CEO also challenged the anonymous whistleblower to come forward and reveal themselves, the whistle-blower then responded with an email cc’d to medical schemes and the media. The email contained extensive of details of the alleged fraud – plenty of information for investigators to get started with.

The whistle-blower told News24 that, for example, “When a patient died in a hospital emergency room, sometimes Mediclinic case managers were expected to change their accounts to reflect an ICU death instead. This is because of the fixed fees associated with emergency room deaths, which are lower than ICU-related fees.”

UK Nurse Sentenced to Life for Murders of 7 Babies

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A UK nurse has been sentenced to life in prison for murdering seven babies in a neonatal unit. In what is the longest murder trial in recent UK history, 33-year old Lucy Letby was also convicted of attempting to kill six other babies, and further investigation by the BBC has also revealed how hospital management at the time deflected concerns by doctors and actively silenced them.

Between June 2015 and June 2016, Letby deliberately injected air into babies’ parenteral nutrition lines, force-fed milk to others and administered huge doses of insulin to two others. In the years before, less than three death per year had been recorded at Countess of Chester Hospital at the neonatal unit where she worked.

According to The Guardian, Mr Justice Goss said during her sentencing: “This was a cruel, calculated, and cynical campaign of child murder involving the smallest and most vulnerable of children, knowing that your actions were causing significant physical suffering and would cause untold mental suffering.”

She was found not guilty of two other counts of attempted murder, but the jury consisting of four men and seven women were unable to reach a verdict on six additional attempted murder charges. The court will consider whether to attempt to retry these six charges.

Dr Stephen Brearey, lead consultant at the neonatal unit where Letby worked told the BBC he first raised concerns about the nurse in October 2015, but not no action was taken and she went on to attack five more babies.

He that hospital management failed to investigate allegations against her and also tried to silence doctors. An investigation by BBC Panorama BBC News revealed just how Letby was able to get away with murdering and harming the babies for so long.

The hospital’s top manager ordered doctors to make written apologies to to Letby, and two consultants had to undertake mediation with the nurse, despite their suspecting she had killed babies. Efforts to bring in the police were also quashed by senior management, who said in an email “This is absolutely being treated with the same degree of urgency … All emails cease forthwith”.

Dr Ravi Jayaram, a consultant paediatrician at the hospital, wrote on social media that he felt relief at the oft-maligned justice system working “this time”.

But he continued there were “things that need to come out about why it took several months from concerns being raised to the top brass before any action was taken to protect babies”.

He also added: “And why from that time it then took almost a year for those highly-paid senior managers to allow the police to be involved.”

The Judgment Handed down on COVID Vaccine Secrecy is a Victory for Democracy

The Health Justice Initiative today reported an important court victory in their attempts to lift the veil of of secrecy over government’s vaccine procurement contracts. The result is a court ruling which orders the Department of Health to disclose these contracts, which will shed light on important questions such as whether these vaccines were purchased at inflated prices and unfavourable terms. They detail the court victory in a press release:

Health Justice Initiative v The Minister of Health and Information Officer, National Department of Health (Case no 10009/22).

Today, South African courts upheld the principles of transparency and accountability when our government procures health services using public funds. The Pretoria High Court ruled in our favour in our bid to compel the National Department of Health to provide access to the COVID-19 vaccine procurement contracts. The Court ordered (per Millar J) that all COVID-19 vaccine contracts must be made public within 10 days.

This is a massive victory for transparency and accountability.  The contracts concern substantial public funds, and the contracting process has been marred by allegations that the government procured vaccines at differential, comparatively inflated prices and that the agreements may contain onerous and inequitable terms including broad indemnification clauses, export restrictions, and non-refundability clauses.

This significant moment comes as we begin to emerge from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.  It sets an important precedent, especially as our government pursues National Health Insurance (NHI).  With increasing reports of corruption within the healthcare sector, we cannot have a healthcare system shrouded in secrecy.  Procurement must be held in check, as it will involve powerful multinational companies, particularly from the pharmaceutical industry. 

The secrecy surrounding COVID-19 vaccine procurement at the height of the pandemic continues to be a global issue, not just limited to SA – it is important to know what was agreed to in our name at the behest of powerful vaccine manufacturers who have been reported to have bullied governments in the Global South especially, insisting on contracts that ultimately made them huge profits, without maximum accountability and openness. Therefore, this judgment can be leveraged by other countries to demand open contracting in their jurisdictions.

We believe that in the current Pandemic Treaty negotiations, where worrying attempts are being made to water down transparency, this judgment will support Pandemic Preparedness measures by bolstering provisions on transparency and accountability in these negotiations.

This case demonstrates that all governments should and can be held accountable when spending public funds, this also includes the parties it entered into contracts with. It is in the public interest to know what was agreed to. The judgment has affirmed that today.

We look forward to the Department of Health’s cooperation by making available all the records HJI requested within the time period set out in the judgment (10 court days from 17 August 2023).

Plastic Surgeon Loses Medical Licence for Streaming Surgeries on TikTok

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unspalsh

A plastic surgeon in the US has had her medical licence permanently revoked for livestreaming parts of her surgeries and causing harm to her patients while doing so, according to the Washington Post.

Dr Katherine Grawe, who was also fined US$4500, streamed her operations with between 100 000 and 500 000 viewers at a time, speaking to the camera and on occasion answering viewers’ questions.

Three of her patients whose surgeries she had streamed experienced complications – infections, a perforated intestine and a loss of brain function – that required further medical care. She told the Washington Post that she did not believe that her livestreaming her surgeries had resulted in harm to her patients.

“Nobody wants a complication, and we never want things to go poorly, but any complications that happened with me were not because I was not paying attention,” Grawe said. “My whole goal in life is to give these people confidence and make them more beautiful. And, unfortunately, they suffered these complications, and I feel very sad for them. I would never want anything bad to happen to them.”

She specialised in cosmetic surgery for women’s breasts, as well as tummy tucks and other procedures, Grawe said. She is also being sued by the three patients who had complications. Since she started practising in 2010 with her Dr Roxy practice, she built up a social media following and eventually began livestreaming on TikTok in an effort to break down “this scary wall” between patients and doctors. Her patients all signed consent forms for their procedures to be livestreamed.

Grawe’s licence was suspended in November, and she pleaded with the board, saying that she would never livestream her surgeries again. The board was not moved by her appeal. “Dr Grawe’s social media was more important to her than the lives of the patients she treated,” the board stated.

The board had warned her in 2018 over patient confidentiality concerns in her livestreaming, and again in 2021.

Surgeries conducted in front of an audience are nothing new in medicine; medical students and clinicians alike observe procedures to learn and share knowledge. Some operating theatres are specially designed to host audiences behind windows overlooking the operating table. In the 21st century, it has become commonplace for educational livestreaming of surgeries, with considerable benefits for surgeons and increased anatomy knowledge scores.

There is also some evidence of risks to patients: one review found no increased risk of harm in urology, but this was not true for other surgical fields. Thirteen

Unlike in-person viewing of surgeries, data protection considerations must be employed as operating on a patient often may reveal identifiable information even if not livestreaming to a wide audience. Certain video conferencing platforms may not be secure, and recordings of the procedure may inadvertently be accessible to others, eg being stored on network drives, on the cloud without password protection and so on. There are secure communication apps that can be used to confidentially view and share patient data, such as TigerConnect, Medic Bleep, Forward Health and Siilo.

124 Fake Doctors Arrested, Minister of Health Says

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Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla has confirmed the arrest of 124 fake doctors as a result of a crackdown by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), reports IOL. He revealed the information in a response to a parliamentary question.

He said that the doctors were able to avoid the system by taking cash payments, or working in the practices of registered doctors. Dr Phaahla noted that it was a criminal offence to practice medicine without being registered.

The arrests came as a result of the HPCSA establishing an Inspectorate to crack down on illegal practising medical workers. The Inspectorate currently has offices in all of South Africa’s provinces save Northwest and Northern Cape.

The relevant section of the Act reads [PDF]:

  1. (I) No person shall be entitled to practise within the Republic–
    (a) the profession of a medical practitioner, dentist, psychologist or as an intern; or
    (b) except in so far as it is authorized by the provisions of the Nursing Act, 1957 (Act No. 69 of 1957), the Chiropractors Act, 1971 (Act No. 76 of 1971), the Pharmacy Act, 1974, and sections 32, 33, 34 and 39 of this Act, for gain any other profession the practice of which mainly consists of-
    (i) the physical or mental examination of persons;
    (ii) the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of physical or mental defects, illnesses or deficiencies in man;
    (iii) the giving of advice in regard to such defects, illnesses or deficiencies; or
    (iv) the prescribing or providing of medicine in connection with such defects, illnesses or deficiencies,
    unless he is registered in terms of this Act.

Source: IOL

Court Dismisses MEC’s Attempt to Quash Inquiry into her ‘Killing my Health System’ Remark

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

By Tania Broughton for GroundUp

Limpopo MEC for Health Dr Pophi Ramathuba has failed in her attempt to put a stop to a Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) inquiry into comments she made to a Zimbabwean patient when she visited Bela Bela Hospital last year.

A disciplinary inquiry had been set down for July to probe complaints against her emanating from the conversation which was widely broadcast.

While Pretoria High Court Judge Anthony Millar, in his judgment refusing to grant Ramathuba an interdict, did not detail the complaints, it is public record that she told the patient that Zimbabweans were putting a huge strain on the provincial health system.

She said: “You are killing my health system. It’s unfair.”

Ramathuba brought the application in her capacity as the MEC for health, in two parts, divided into Part A and Part B.

Part A was for an interdict pending Part B – a review application in which she would seek an order declaring the decision of the HPCSA issued against her on 9 February 2023 as unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid, and declaring that the HPCSA lacks jurisdiction over the conduct of the applicant as an MEC.

Only Part A was considered by Judge Millar this week and he ruled on Friday.

In his judgment, he said many complaints had been laid against Ramathuba with the HPCSA as a result of the conversation.

Ramathuba disputed the complaints, both in her capacity as the MEC for Health and as a medical practitioner.

“It is not in issue that the applicant has at all material times been registered as a health professional and remains so and the HPCSA is the custodian of the medical profession,” Judge Millar wrote.

The judge explained that the HPCSA has a two stage complaints procedure. The first is a preliminary inquiry, which may result in the complaint being resolved. If it is not, it is referred to a formal inquiry.

Judge Millar said a preliminary committee had considered the complaints at a meeting at the end of January. The committee had resolved that the applicant was guilty of unprofessional conduct but that it was only a “minor transgression” and that she should be cautioned for unprofessional behaviour, unbecoming of a medical professional for “shouting at a patient’s bedside as the patient was vulnerable at the time”.

The HPCSA, in a letter to Ramathuba, said the acceptance of this penalty would not constitute a conviction and would not be reflected against her name. The matter would be regarded as finalised.

But Ramathuba refused to accept the finding. She wrote to the HPCSA in February this year, challenging it on the basis that it had no jurisdiction over her.

The HPCSA disagreed with this, and set the formal hearing dates.

“The applicant does not want the inquiry to proceed or to attend it … she says she conducted the conversation in her capacity as an MEC and not as a medical practitioner,” Judge Millar said.

“The crisp question is, is the applicant in her capacity as MEC a separate persona from the applicant as a medical practitioner. The office of the MEC is a political one whereas her status as a medical practitioner is a professional one.

“The holding of political office and remaining registered as a medical practitioner are not mutually exclusive. The one hallmark of both is that the individual concerned accepts that they are, and subject themselves to being accountable for their actions.

“It seems to me to be a wholly contrived and self-serving assertion that conduct is determined depending upon ‘which hat a person is wearing at the time’,” the judge said.

“This is simply not consistent with our constitutional values or the law. There is to my mind no distinction to be drawn between the different offices a person holds and their conduct.”

He said Ramathuba had maintained her registration with the HPCSA so she had no right to avoid its jurisdiction. If she had de-registered then the situation would be different.

“Her refusal to accept the finding of the preliminary committee means that the entire matter will serve before a different committee … she will have the opportunity to raise whatever challenge she wishes at the inquiry.

“Delaying the matter unnecessarily ending a review does not serve the interests of any of the parties.”

Judge Millar dismissed the application and ordered Ramathuba to pay the HPCSA’s costs.

Republished from GroundUp under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Source: GroundUp