Why am I being charged, asks Noakes
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Cape Town - Sports scientist Tim Noakes has come out guns blazing, demanding the Health Professionals Council of SA (HPCSA) provide reasons why it hauled him in front of a disciplinary committee that will decide whether to revoke his licence as a medical doctor.
Professor Noakes is facing a charge of unprofessional conduct after he, via Twitter, advised a mother to wean her newborn baby on to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet.
His representative at the hearing, advocate Michael van der Nest, said Noakes had not been presented with the reasons he was being disciplined by a preliminary committee the HPCSA had established
Noakes was also not given an opportunity to respond. “All we were ever given was a complaint,” Van der Nest said.
Along with eight other requests and questions, some of which relate to the impartiality of some of the members on the preliminary committee, Van der Nest on Monday asked the disciplinary committee to rule that the HPCSA give reasons why Noakes was charged and explain the circumstances.
He said the committee, which was chaired by head of ethics at Wits University, Professor Ames Dhai, had instead of answering questions, tried to influence the prosecution of the case with Dhai trying to source witnesses and evidence against Noakes – a role which should have been played by the pro forma complainant, Meshack Mapholisa.
Van der Nest found out about Dhai’s conduct through a HPCSA documents which ended up in the defence’s hands towards the end of last year.
Noakes had advised Pippa Leenstra on Twitter, in February 2014, to wean her newborn baby on to a low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diet. This came after she had tweeted him and nutritional therapist Sally-Ann Creed about whether it was safe for mothers to be on the Banting diet while breast-feeding. 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.”
Claire Julsing-Strydom, a past president of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), lodged the complaint. She previously testified Noakes had given incorrect medical advice in his tweet, which had not been based on evidence and could be life-threatening.
Noakes has not practised as a general practitioner for years but faces losing his medical licence if found guilty.
Advocate Ajay Bhoopchand, acting on behalf of Mapholisa, argued that the HPCSA acted within its boundaries and could not divulge the information. Noakes’s team should approach the high court for the information they sought, Bhoopchand said. “It might be rational that the committee makes a ruling, but it would be wrong in law,” he said.
Van der Nest said: “We ask that a ruling be made for the questions and requests to be answered by the HPCSA in its capacity led by the registrar and by the chair of the appropriate board, and that they be made to answer questions within a set time and provide the information within a set time, including the reasons in writing for prelims decision (to charge Noakes) and could we please know what information was before prelim when they made the decision.”
Presiding officer advocate Joan Adams said the ruling would have far-reaching consequences and the committee needed time to deliberate. The hearing was adjourned at lunchtime so that the committee could consider their decision.
The hearing is to continue on Tuesday.
The hearing started last year and was set down for a week, but after delays the proceedings resumed on Monday.
The hearing has attracted international media attention.
A number of people wearing green in support of Noakes packed into the room where the hearing was held at the Belmont Square Conference Centre in Rondebosch.
Cape Times and Cape Argus