Kidney doctors not off hook yet

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iol news pic kidneygate doctors netcare Independent Newspapers File picture: Prof John Robbs, Dr Mahadev Naidoo and Prof Ariff Haffejee in the specialised commercial crime court in Durba. Picture: Sbu Ndlovu

Durban - The

doctors implicated in the cash-for-kidneys scandal may have beaten off prosecution, but they could still face disciplinary action, the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) said on Wednesday.

The council said it was continuing its investigation into any breaches of ethical and professional conduct.

This is despite the Durban High Court granting a permanent stay of prosecution last week to four surgeons and two Netcare clinic staff.

Responding today to the HPCSA stance, one of the surgeons, Professor John Robbs, said the council’s investigation was pointless because they had done nothing unethical.

The surgeons, Robbs, Ariff Haffejee, Neil Christopher and Mahadev Naidoo, and former St Augustine’s Hospital transplant unit staff members Lindy Dickson and Melanie Azor (now doctors), had been charged with involvement in 90 illegal kidney transplant operations.

It was alleged that Brazilians sold their kidneys to wealthy Israeli patients in exchange for cash between 2001 and 2003, in contravention of the Human Tissue Act.

But acting judge Anton Troskie found that the right to a fair trial had been infringed and they had suffered prejudice as a result of delays in the trial.

He ordered the respondent, the deputy director of public prosecutions, to pay the costs of the application for a stay in prosecution.

HPCSA spokeswoman, Bertha Peters-Scheepers, said the council was aware of the ruling, but that the council investigation, at an advanced stage, would continue.

“The court pronounced itself on an application for permanent stay of prosecution, and not on the merits of the case,” she said. “Should our ongoing investigation reveal unprofessional (or unethical) conduct on the part of any of our registered members, disciplinary action will accordingly be taken.”

The State was this week expected to deliberate on whether to appeal against the ruling, with state advocate Robin Palmer saying the prosecution team still needed to study the judgment before deciding.

The medical practitioners had welcomed the ruling, saying they felt vindicated. Robbs said that the probe by the HPCSA did not worry him at all.

“They can scratch and dig: they will find nothing. That’s because we’ve done nothing unethical; this has been proven during the High court proceedings. This is a waste of taxpayers’ money,” said Robbs.

He said that he and the other doctors being investigated had merely been the “beavers” doing the hard work. He said that he had not been informed of the investigation.

“Our records with the council are immaculate. There has not been one complaint against us in our careers,” Robbs said.

He ascribed the launch of the council’s investigation to an over-zealous bureaucrat, who had nothing better to do. “I would hesitate to say that we are being victimised, because there is no reason I can think of for that… We were just doing our jobs.”

In 2010, Netcare KwaZulu-Natal pleaded guilty and paid a R4 million fine and agreed to a R3.8m confiscation order.

In the same year, former nephrologist, Jeff Kallmeyer, now living in Canada, admitted to 90 counts of contravening the act and paid a R150 000 admission-of-guilt fine.

Hebrew interpreter, Samuel Ziegler, paid a fine of R50 000 and was given a suspended sentence of five years for his role in the deals. - Daily News


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