‘HPCSA violated Noakes’s rights’
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Cape Town - The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) blatantly defied the country’s constitution as well as the Promotions of Administrative Justice Act when it charged sports scientist Tim Noakes with unprofessional conduct without giving him reasons.
This was the finding of the professional conduct committee on an application by Noakes’s legal team to obtain evidence the HPCSA’s preliminary committee had when it decided to charge him.
It was “astounding” that the HPCSA’s preliminary committee had not given Noakes any documentation it used to arrive at a decision to charge him, conduct committee chairperson advocate Joan Adams said on Tuesday.
“This professional conduct committee can see no reason whatsoever why the respondent (Noakes) should be expected to incur exorbitant costs and suffer severe prejudice due to failure by prelim to comply with its mandate and to be in line with the constitution. It defies all logic.
“Failure to provide reasons for its decision is a blatant defy (sic) of the constitution and the regulations in the Promotions of Administrative Justice Act,” Adams said.
Noakes is appearing before a disciplinary committee on a charge of unprofessional conduct after he advised Pippa Leenstra on Twitter to wean her newborn baby on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet. He faces losing his medical licence if found guilty.
In 2014, Leenstra had tweeted Noakes and nutritional therapist Sally-Ann Creed about whether it was safe for breastfeeding mothers to be on the Banting diet.
Noakes had replied on Twitter: “Baby doesn’t eat the dairy and cauliflower. Just very healthy high fat breast milk. Key is to ween baby on to LCHF.”
The hearing started last year and was set down for a week, but after delays the proceedings resumed this week.
On Monday Noakes’s legal representative, advocate Michael van der Nest, demanded the HPCSA provide reasons why it hauled him in front of the disciplinary committee and said all his counsel was ever given was a complaint.
Advocate Ajay Bhoop-chand, who said he acted on behalf of pro forma complainant advocate Meshak Mapolisa, argued that the HPCSA acted within its boundaries and Noakes’s team should approach the high court for the information they sought.
Adams yesterday said the professional conduct committee could not compel the HPCSA to provide the information, but made three requests:
That the HPCSA provide written reasons for its decision to charge Noakes; the HPCSA and registrar provide further information and documents the preliminary committee used to arrive at its decision; and that the HPCSA and registrar consider the requests.
Adams said the HPCSA should respond by Friday.
Bhoopchand called psychiatrist and part-time bioethicist lecturer Professor Willem Pienaar to testify.
Pienaar testified that Noakes harmed the medical profession by giving advice to Leenstra without a personal consultation beforehand.
“Noakes had the opportunity to advise her (Leenstra) to see a general practitioner, but he gave expert advice without consultation and without asking the age, weight or health status of the baby. Giving advice like that can seriously harm the profession.”
During cross-examination Van der Nest said Noakes was never charged for not consulting Leenstra first. He put it to Pienaar that Leenstra was in fact a consumer of medical information and not a patient. Pienaar accepted this, but said Noakes should not have responded the way he did.