Don’t fall for fakes: Here’s how to spot a bogus doctor

[This story was first published on 17 October 2023. It’s been updated to reflect the latest developments]

Bogus health professionals have been a hot topic in South Africa lately. One of the more sensational is the story of ‘Tik Tok’ doctor Matthew Zingwela Lani who has been trending all over social media for the past two weeks.

Lani had 280,000 followers on Tik Tok. He would share unproven ‘medical’ advice on the social network, putting the health and wellbeing of his followers at risk. The video sharing platform has since banned his account. 

Various public institutions have also addressed his claim to fame – that he was a qualified medical doctor. 

The University of the Witwatersrand denounced  his claims of studying medicine at the institution. The Gauteng Department of Health opened a criminal case against him.

On Sunday 29 October, he was arrested by security at Helen Joseph Hospital, whilst trying to enter the facility. In a media statement, the Gauteng Department of Health says Lani was caught just before 8pm disguised in a hoodie and wearing a surgical mask with a stethoscope around his neck.

He had entered the facility to create misleading content for his social media pages, still pretending to be a qualified doctor.

On Sunday 29 October, he was arrested by security at Helen Joseph Hospital, whilst trying to enter the facility. In a media statement, the Gauteng Department of Health says Lani was caught just before 8pm disguised in a hoodie and wearing a surgical mask with a stethoscope around his neck.

He had entered the facility to create misleading content for his social media pages, still pretending to be a qualified doctor.

And the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) says Lani was not registered as a health practitioner which is a legal requirement. 

The HPCSA is the government body tasked with making sure that anyone who provides medical care or advice in South Africa is qualified and registered to do so. The Council also provides a public service of investigating complaints against medical practitioners and disciplines those who don’t conduct themselves professionally.  

Health-e News spoke with Christopher Tsatsawane, head of corporate affairs at the HPCSA, to unpack the process. 

What are the requirements for doctors to practise legally in South Africa?

“The doctor must hold a formal qualification and must be registered with the HPCSA and the registration status must be active.” 

Practising without registration is a criminal offence.

How do I know if my doctor is legit?

“You can ask your doctor to provide you with proof that he or she is registered. The HPCSA registration certificate that was issued upon their registration is not proof enough that the doctor is still registered. 

“Registration is renewed annually on 1 April. Proof of renewal which is downloaded by the doctor from the HPCSA online portal has a QR code which can be scanned by any device linked to the internet.  

The QR code, after being scanned, will direct the scanner to the live link which will display if the doctor is registered, the category of registration and the registration status.” 

What must I do if I can’t find my doctor on the register?

“If you are unable to find the doctor’s details on the i-register, you can call our call centre on 012 338 9300.”

@healthenews

We’ve all been seeing how fake doctors have been trending lately, so here’s a simple way to ensure your doc is HPCSA-registered. #DrMatthew #MatthewLani #FakeDoctors #bogusdoctor #bogusdoctorsinsouthafrica #TikTokDoctors

♬ original sound – Health-e News – Health-e News

What type of complaints can I bring against my doctor?

“Mismanagement of patients, fraudulent activities by practitioners and any other conduct perceived to be unprofessional and not in compliance with the ethical rules.”

What’s the complaints procedure? 

“Once a complaint is received by HPCSA, it will go through the screening process followed by perusal, analysis and categorisation. 

“Complaints relating to minor transgressions are referred for mediation to the Ombudsman to resolve the matter.” A minor transgression would include a patient being left unattended or theft from a patient (or a deceased person).

“Complaints relating to serious transgressions are referred for an investigation to be conducted. Upon completion of the investigation, the case will be tabled before the relevant Preliminary Committee of Inquiry.”

A major transgression would be impersonating a medical professional (fraud) or practising without being registered.

What happens if the health worker is found guilty of unprofessional behaviour?

Registered healthcare practitioners found guilty of improper or disgraceful conduct, by a professional conduct committee, can face one or more of the following penalties:

  • A caution or a reprimand;
  • Suspension for a specified period from practising or performing acts specially pertaining to his or her profession;
  • Removal of his or her name from the register;
  • A prescribed fine;
  • A compulsory period of professional service as may be determined by the professional board; or
  • The payment of the costs of the proceedings or a restitution or both.

Health-e News

Author

Free to Share

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.


Related

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop

We see you enjoy reading our articles, subscribe now and receive our articles in your inbox.

Newsletter Subscription

Enable Notifications