Health Department and HPCSA failing medical professionals

Issued by Michele Clarke and Madeleine Hicklin –
02 Feb 2024 in News

The DA notes the viral TikTok from Dr Mumtaaz (Taz) Emeran-Thomas ( exposing the struggles of unemployed and unplaced interns, community service doctors, and medical professionals seeking employment after their community service years.

The DA has long tried to hold the Department of Health (DoH) and the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) accountable for their annual treatment of interns and community service medical professionals struggling to get placed – some for years. This year has been no exception. The DA has written to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, regarding this dilemma, and he indicated in his reply to DA Shadow Minister of Health, Michele Clarke, dated 11 January 2024, that 86 environmental health practitioners (EHPs), 8 physiotherapists, and 11 radiotherapists could not be placed due to insufficient funded posts. Furthermore, 158 foreign nationals have yet to be placed as they can only be considered for placement after all South Africans and permanent residents have been allocated.

The DA will submit written parliamentary questions to the Minister regarding his Department’s failure to allocate interns and community service medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and environmental health practitioners (EHPs). We will also submit questions on how the Department has assisted 29 interns placed at military hospital facilities that did not receive their appointment letters in time.

We will also submit questions regarding the placement of foreign nationals that have studied in South Africa to determine their backlog for placement.

Every year the placement of interns and community service medical professionals place severe strain on them due to the Department and the HPCSA’s failure to properly assist and communicate.

The DA will also submit questions on the current vacancy rate for various medical professions, including doctors, nurses, and others. As highlighted by Dr Emeran-Thomas, it remains a massive problem that is exacerbated by constant cuts to employment budgets within the Department.

The placement of interns and community service medical professionals are by no means the only complaints the DA is fielding regarding the HPCSA.

A 71-year-old ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, Dr Bryan Malakou, had to pay the HPCSA R12 600 after he was deregistered without warning for failing to to pay his annual registration fees due to mistakenly believing that he was exempt from payment once he turned 71.

We have also received a number of complaints about the HPCSA allegedly mishandling investigations into medical malpractice.

All of these issues, as well as the allegations that the HPCSA suspended almost 6 000 healthcare practitioners and that the Council failed to implement the 2015 ministerial report recommendations and was rife with mismanagement and maladministration does not sketch a picture of a Council that has the best interest of the medical professionals at heart.

The DA implores the HPCSA and the Department to implement an effective communication strategy to ensure that all medical professionals can receive the assistance they require. The DA can confirm that it is very hard to get hold of anyone at the Council in a timely manner, and that engagements with the HPCSA usually end in frustration.