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IN DODGY downtown corners, in hidden urban mall hallways, you’ll find them. Operating in broad daylight; their offices, rooms and equipment are all in check, but they are an increasing danger to the lives of unsuspecting South Africans.

Bogus doctors - brazen and illegally operating surgical rooms and dispensing medicines.

This year alone, the Health Professions Council of SA (the HPCSA) has investigated 400 cases of these dubious doctors, 138 of which have been handed over to the police - and 38 of them have been arrested.

And, according to South African Medical Association chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, it has become, "a dangerous and huge problem”.

The HPCSA’s Inspectorate Office, in conjunction with the Medicines Control Council, the Road Traffic Management Corporation and the Hawks, recently raided two practices owned by Dr William Mosito Mogaila - one in Kempton Park, the other in Hillbrow.

Four people were arrested, including Mogaila. But at the the Kempton Park practice, Mubiala Priscille Kitsisi, Desire Kwete Bope and Sylvie Kabinda (all Congolese nationals), were found to be practising illegally as they were not registered with the HPCSA.

Large amounts of scheduled medication were found on the premises, including medication “for State use only”, which was also seized

Medical certificates for Professional Driving Permits were also discovered, indicating that the certificates were fraudulently being issued under the name and details of Dr Mogaila and sold for cash.

More scheduled medications, including ARVs, were also seized at the Hillbrow practice.

The HPCSA's Act 56 of 1974 makes the registration of every health practitioner a priority. If a practitioner isn’t registered, they aren’t supposed to be practising.

But the real danger lies in the actual knowledge and skill set of these bogus doctors.

Eric Mphaphuli, a senior manager at the HPCSA’s inspectorate, said: “There are those who aren’t even qualified as doctors, which poses a serious health risk because they see people and prescribe medicines they too aren’t knowledgeable about. Others perhaps qualified as doctors in their country of origin, but start practising here without being registered.”

Some doctors studied medicine but didn’t always register with HPCSA, making it difficult for the public to have recourse should anything go wrong.

According to Mphaphuli, patients should look out for an HPCSA registration certificate, which is usually hung quite visibly in the practice. Doctors are also given registration cards that are renewed annually, meaning if your doctor cannot produce a valid card, he is operating illegally.

When patients are ill, the last thing on their minds is to look out for certificates, but it is important, he said.