Doctors unhappy with 15% registration fee hike amid pandemic

The South African Medical Association says the fee increase is unacceptable and wants transparency on how the extra funds are to be spent.

The 15% registration fee hike for medical and dental practitioners is unreasonable and shows a complete lack of appreciation for frontline health workers’ efforts, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) says.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) recently announced annual membership fees would not increase for 11 professional boards, except for the Medical and Dental Professions Board.

Dentists, medical officers, specialists, anaesthetist assistants, health assistants and interns, however, will have to pay an extra 15.25% more for the 2021-22 year, after a fee hike in the previous year of 21%.

Registration fees are payable by any health or medical practitioner to be registered in terms of the Health Professions Act No 56 of 1974.

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SAMA has questioned the increase, saying that as essential workers, the medical and dental professions are the council’s biggest income stream and such an increase was unacceptable.  SAMA chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee has questioned the need for the increase, considering the efforts of those working in the frontline during the past year’s Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is unacceptable. They need to be transparent and we need to understand why there is a 15% increase. What are the expenses and why does that happen?” Coetzee said.

“It is not as if we are getting more services. They just show a lack of recognition and appreciation for the dedication of frontline workers.”

HPCSA trying to keep fees as ‘low as possible’

The HPCSA said it had this month embarked on additional reviews to keep the annual and other fee increases as low as possible without affecting professional boards’ core mandate of delivery.

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The 15% hike, they say, was mainly to fund inquiries into professional conduct. HPSCA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said the increase was to aid in avoiding a backlog on finalising complaints against registered practitioners.

“The HPCSA has ensured that the annual fees for practitioners have not been increased, especially since Covid-19 has had a negative effect on the income of practitioners.”

“The medical and dental professions board has seen an increase purely due to professional conduct activities,” she said.

SAMA said it would, however, write to the health council requesting detailed financial statements and audits.

“We are going to ask the HPCSA for audited financial statements to be able to see why there is a need for increasing only the medical and dental professional board registration fees,” Coetzee said.

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