Players in the health sector expressed delight on Wednesday over a decision to put contentious new fee guidelines on hold.

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) announced a temporary postponement on the 2012 tariff regulations, which were set to be published in the Government Gazette on Friday.

In response, the SA Dental Association (Sada) postponed its plans to initiate legal action against the HPCSA.

Sada chief executive, Maretha Smit, said they had been encouraged by the HPCSA leadership's “positive attitude”.

“Following a week of great negativity and turmoil in the health professions, we now look forward to finding a mutual solution to the question of tariffs,” said Smit.

“The tariff guidelines' release into the public domain was premature and would have become an embarrassment to the health professions and the public at large,” she said.

Medical and dental associations had threatened to take legal action against the statutory body if the publication of the guidelines was not halted.

HPCSA president Sam Mokgokong announced the temporary freeze, saying the move was caused by the reactions of health care practitioners and organisations, and the threat of legal action.

Mokgokong said the prospect of the debacle derailing national health care delivery in the country played a further part.

The HPCSA said it was temporarily postponing the publication of the tariffs, and that roleplayers would be given an opportunity to make presentations at a council meeting on September 3.

The SA Medical Association (Sama) welcomed the decision to temporarily shelve the regulation yardstick. Acting chairman Mark Sonderup said the HPCSA had disregarded advice by basing the guidelines on the 2006 national health reference price list.

“We believe the HPCSA erred in drawing up their tariff guidelines by ignoring valid inputs which have been made. They omitted 1033 new treatment procedures,” Sonderup said.

The SA Society of Anaesthesiologists (Sasa) applauded Mokgokgong's intervention. Sasa president Dr Hyla Kluyts said the organisation and other players raised their concerns with the HPCSA at a meeting on Wednesday.

“Prof Mokgokgong obviously realised the (possible) negative implications on health care in South Africa,” Kluyts said.

On Tuesday, HPCSA ombudsman Dr Abdul Wahab Barday said the guidelines had been formulated as a result of numerous complaints that practitioners were overcharging the public.

The council said it had used the 2006 health reference price list - which was determined by the Council for Medical Schemes in conjunction with the national health department as a baseline - and had added an inflator of 46,66 percent.

In 2010, courts declared invalid the 2007 national health reference price list, which was based on the 2006 list. The 2012

guidelines are the first announced since then. - Sapa