Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says he has appointed a six-member team of experts in medicine, law, IT and administration to investigate allegations lodged against the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
This after the Minister received a lot of complaints about governance, efficiency, effectiveness and sometimes even the competency of the management of the HPCSA.
Minister Motsoaledi was speaking at the two-day Medical Litigation Summit held in Pretoria on Tuesday. The summit started on Monday.
He said the HPCSA initially attempted to set up a committee to resolve matters internally but after his meeting with the council’s president, Professor Sam Mokgokong, they reached an agreement of establishing an independent team outside the council.
“The team will investigate and make findings with regard to whether or not a forensic audit needs to be conducted,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
The Minister said issues under investigate include the governance responsibilities of the HPCSA, procurement procedures followed with the acquisition of the ORACLE information system, allegations of maladministration made by the staff who have resigned, and the fitness of the CEO and the Chief Operations Officer to run the organisation.
He said the team will also look into whether the state of affairs has affected the effectiveness and efficiency of the HPCSA, and if there has been any impact on the training of health professionals.
He also said it will investigate whether the registration of foreign workforce has been negatively affected or not.
“There have been many reports in the media about registration of people who qualified in other countries… One of the most serious allegations made by the people who have resigned is about why there are problems in that regard and I want that investigated.
“I am eagerly waiting for the outcome of this investigation. The country needs a very strong, competent and efficient HPCSA to deal with the problems facing the healthcare sector, especially in view of the issues raised in the summit on medico-legal litigation,” he said.
The Minister is expecting to receive findings and recommendations from the investigation process in about two months so he can take further action.
“The team has been given 60 days to complete their work, but may ask for extension if they deem necessary. The team will provide more information on how they will conduct their work in due course,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
He said the team, headed by the Head of the Medicine Department at the University of Cape Town Professor Bongani Mayosi, will sit in its first meeting on Thursday.
He said it has been suggested in the summit that the health sector needs a litigation authority because litigations are spread across the country and are dealt with differently.
Lawsuits on the rise
The Minister said the health sector in South Africa is experiencing an unprecedented rise in lawsuits that has affected both the public and private sectors.
He said there were specific groups of medical practitioners who were targeted for litigations.
“Not every doctor is being consistently litigated. It is at least four groups of specialists and these include gynaecologists, neurosurgeons, neonatologists and obstetricians.”
The Minister said he understands that the targeted group of doctors are affected highly by the litigations because of the nature of their work and that the outcomes of their practice may not always be satisfactory to the public.
However, the Minister said the first solution should not be legal but medical.
“Can we look into the health or medical system and see what is it that we can improve to minimise cases… [since] it is impossible to eradicate the issue of [imperfect] outcomes,” he said.
He said the second solution was to look into the administrative processes of paying claims, which seeks to stop legal representatives from receiving money for assisting patients who lodged claims.
He said the legal system, being the last solution, needed to be reviewed and perhaps modified.
The Minister dismissed allegations that the department wants to stop people from claiming from the health system when they have been treated unfairly.
“The issue of negligence, malpractice and adverse events in hospitals are well known internationally. As long as humanity exists and as long as the healthcare system exists, those issues will be part and parcel of us but we are trying to find a way of controlling them,” he said. –