Growing number of fake doctors adding to SA healthcare woes
What's up doc? Check that your health provider is registered. Many held in 2021-22 for illegally practicing medicine.
Picture – iStock.
Picture – iStock.
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South Africa’s health system has many problems – and the growing problem of fake doctors is not helping.
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has raised concerns over an escalating number of fake doctors masquerading as health practitioners registered with it.
The council said 55 people had been arrested in 2021 and 2022 for either being bogus doctors or for fraud. HPCSA spokesperson Christopher Tsatsawane said it was working to eradicate “unscrupulous, bogus healthcare practitioners” from operating within SA’s communities.
“In the previous four or five months we have been picking up pockets of health practitioners in different provinces who are not registered with the health professions council,” he said.
“This behaviour undoubtedly puts the health of the public at risk,” Tsatsawane added the HPCSA inspectorate was working in joint operations with the South African Police Service and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to apprehend the fake doctors.
This operation had identified an individual selling medicine to the public in Kabokweni, Mpumalanga.
Tsatsawane said a woman had been found selling scheduled medicines and providing medical services even though she was not registered with the council.
According to the Medicines and Related Substances Act, schedules 1 and 2 medicines were available over the counter and did not require a prescription, while schedules 3 to 6 were only available with a prescription for illnesses with a professional diagnosis and management.
“It was established she was consulting with members of the public, diagnosing them and prescribing medication to them, which they would then purchase from her health shop,” he said.
“She was arrested for contravening the Health Professions Act and the Medicines and Related Substances Act.”
It was unclear if the suspect had been charged and appeared in court. Vincent Tlala, chief executive of the South African Pharmacy Council (SAPC), said there were no records of bogus pharmacies operating in the country, nor had the body come across “fake” pharmacists.
“The SAPC conducts monitoring and disciplinary inspections, some of which stem from tip-offs from members of the public.
“Certain inspection outcomes may result in the closure of pharmacies or deregistration of pharmacists concerned. “We have no record of any pharmacy escaping these checks and balances.”
Tlala said the SAPC had uncovered three pharmacies that did not have a pharmacist present and another two where non-pharmacists had been allowed to handle medicines.
“We instituted disciplinary hearings and all were found guilty. Sanctions were instituted against the responsible pharmacists and pharmacy owners,” he said.
If a bogus doctor writes and issues a script, how do pharmacists check if it’s valid? “Pharmacists process all prescriptions in terms of regulation 33 of the general regulations made in terms of the Medicines and
Related Substances Act and Minimum Standard 2.7 … which require them to verify the details of the prescriber before issuing any prescribed medicines,” he said.
“Pharmacists ensure they process only prescriptions issued by registered prescribers, who possess relevant practice numbers.
“As such, unless an unregistered person operates within a registered practice and the registered medical practitioner allows them to issue prescriptions in the registered practitioner’s name, it would be improbable for such a prescription to be processed within a pharmacy.
“If the registered practice wherein such an unregistered person operates is a medicines room, such an unregistered person would ultimately issue the medicines themselves without the involvement of a pharmacy.”
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