The SA Medical Association (SAMA) says fake doctors prey on members of the public who can’t afford healthcare.
The HPCSA Inspectorate recently revealed 124 bogus doctors were arrested in the past three years. Established in 2014, the inspectorate started working closely with police to arrest fake doctors in 2020.
Chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa says the 124 bogus doctors arrested ranged from specialists to General Practitioners.
“There are many factors that are contributing to this phenomenon. Part of it is the fact that the private healthcare system is expensive and not affordable to many. These fake doctors pose as a cheaper version of this service,” says Mzukwa.
Big cities provide cover for fake doctors
HPCSA head of the Corporate Affairs Division. Christopher Tsatsawane says fake doctors operate mainly in big cities, where it takes longer to detect them. “This is because it is more difficult in a big city to know each other because there are many people.”
Tsatsawane says it’s clear there is a need for more specialists within the public health system.
Some of the 124 arrested are qualified doctors who were suspended or deregistered due to malpractice.
“Then there are those who are not qualified at all and therefore also not registered with the council but operating as bogus doctors,” says Tsatsawane.
Monitoring for fake doctors improved
Mzukwa says the more rigorous monitoring process employed through the inspectorate office campaign has helped locate and arrest the bogus doctors.
“We also have a problem of poor health literacy in the country. People don’t know how the health system works. Nobody, including the government, has taken the time to educate communities on how to identify genuine medical professionals and what to do about their suspicions,” says Mzukwa.
Spotting the red flags
Tsatsawane admits it is not easy for patients to identify fake doctors just by observation. This is because these so-called doctors will use existing practitioners’ ID and registration numbers and operate in syndicates.
“Patients have the responsibility to request the registration details of a particular practitioner that they want to check. If they are registered with the HPCSA, then they would have no reason to hide their documentation or registration details from their clients.”
The public can contact the HPCSA call centre for assistance to confirm whether a practitioner is genuine or bogus. They can also check the council’s website. However, Tsatsawane says they will need the doctor’s registration number or ID to do these checks.
“We intend to continuously up our game in monitoring facilities and medical facilities to bust this kind of crime and ensure that we come up with campaigns that are aimed at raising awareness all over communities across the country. Sharing as much information on what to look out for,” he says.
If you are concerned about a doctor contact the Inspectorate Office using this email address or contact number, Inspectorateoffice@hpcsa.co.za or 012 338 9300 / 9301. – Health-e News