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Cape Town - Medical aid fraud, theft and shoddy treatment of patients seem to be on the increase among doctors if the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s misconduct figures are anything to go by.
The council said that of about 3 000 complaints received in the 12 months to the end of March, almost 120 had been referred to the police for investigation as the practitioners involved were not registered with the body.
Of about 1 830 cases it considered, it finalised 734 during the financial year.
It found about 200 doctors guilty of misconduct.
More than 400 complaints were referred to the Office of the Ombudsman for mediation, while 200 cases were referred to the council’s Professional Conduct Committee.
Forty-nine doctors were found guilty of theft and fraud, while 41 doctors were found guilty of providing insufficient care or treatment and of mismanagement of patients.
At least 30 doctors were penalised for overcharging their patients or charging for services not rendered, while 15 were found to have been negligent.
A further 15 were found to have brought their professions into disrepute.
Council spokeswoman Lize Nel expressed concern about the increase in the number of fraudulent claims for money - many of them from medical aids - that were made by doctors.
“Not only is committing fraud strictly against the council’s good practice guidelines, but it is a criminal offence.
“The council supports the authorities in imposing the appropriate sanctions on practitioners found guilty of this unethical and disgraceful conduct.”
A Cape Town doctor found guilty of unprofessional conduct allowed his practice to be run by someone else on his behalf, and attempted to recover fees fraudulently from a patient’s medical aid.
Another city doctor was sanctioned for being rude to a patient, while another was fined R5 000 for treating a dog at her practice.
Nel said while there had been an increase in the number of complaints against doctors, this could be attributed to people “becoming more and more aware of their rights” regarding health care.
She said South African doctors continued to rank among the best in the world, “which is why they are so esteemed and in such demand around the globe”.
The council received between 2 500 to 3 000 complaints a year.