The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) has deregistered more than 1 000 basic ambulance attendance certificate holders who are suspected of having obtained their qualifications fraudulently.

They had all received their certificates from the Limpopo Ambulance Training Academy between 2008 and last year, according to the HPCSA.

The council’s spokeswoman, Bertha Peters-Scheepers, said on Monday the training college, which operated from Polokwane, had since been closed down.

The HPCSA has no record of where the certificate holders are employed, but The Star understands about 200 are employed by the Limpopo Health Department.

Peters-Scheepers said the council had discovered that the academy had issued fraudulent certificates.

“Some of them were paying for the certificates without attending classes,” she said.

Peters-Scheepers said the college had violated the HPCSA’s accreditation regulations and were “over-enrolling” students.

Phuti Seloba, spokesman for the Limpopo Health Department, admitted that their emergency medical services personnel were under scrutiny.

“At some point we had a preliminary figure (of those facing the probe), but we are unable to give you that figure now.”

But the SA Emergency Personnel Union (Saepu), which claims to represent 80 percent of the 1 624 emergency personnel in the provincial department, said more than 200 members had been deregistered from the council.

Seloba said those whose membership had been terminated by the HPCSA would be fired from the department.

“We don’t have a reason to keep them… We are also looking at… opening fraud cases against these people, because money that was earned fraudulently has to be repaid,” Seloba added.

But the union wants the department to retrain those who are affected.

Saepu president Mpho Mpogeng blamed the department for having employed people with fraudulent qualifications.

“They were on probation for a year and thereafter the department employed them permanently. It means the department was happy with them.”

He also said his members already had financial commitments, and that firing them would have dire implications for their families and dependants.

But Seloba said: “We can’t negotiate with fraudsters.”

Seloba said the sacking of 200 personnel would not affect service delivery negatively.

“These people are at an entry level. But service delivery is about quality, not about quantity.”

Separately, last year the department fired about 30 emergency personnel after it discovered they had obtained their qualifications fraudulently from the same training college.

Seloba said they would never be employed in the department, even if they subsequently trained with accredited institutions.

The college could not be reached for comment.

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The Star