Bogus doctors causing concern
02 September 2009 at 06h00
THE number of bogus doctors plying their trade in South Africa runs into the hundreds.
So says Professor Denise White, chairwoman of the South African Medical Association (Sama).
They range from individuals with no training practising as - among others - paediatricians and neurologists, to backstreet abortionists operating under the most dismal and unhygienic circumstances imaginable.
"We have been aware of their existence for some considerable time, but there is nothing we can do about the situation other than to raise awareness among the public because these bogus practitioners are not members of Sama nor do we have any jurisdiction over them," she says.
"The best advice I can give to the public is to check the qualifications and ask for the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa) registration details of any practitioner that they may have doubts about."
The HPCSA said it was concerned over the flood of advertisements by people claiming to be doctors and experts in pregnancy termination, and it has warned the public to avoid going to such individuals.
HPCSA registrar Advocate Boyce Mkhize said the countless advertisements plastered on street poles and buildings by people with names like "Dr Cure", "Dr John" and "Dr Liezl" was a clear indication that these people were not registered with the HPCSA.
"The HPCSA warns the public to be on the lookout for bogus doctors who claim to do abortions. Only qualified medical people are allowed to carry out abortions.
"Members of the public are encouraged to check with the HPCSA at 012 338 9301 if they want to confirm whether the people they go to for medical attention are registered practitioners."
He said the HPCSA had no jurisdiction over bogus practitioners, and anyone masquerading as a medical practitioner should be reported to the police.
Working as a medical person without the registration of the relevant regulatory authority is a criminal act.
"We are concerned about the mushrooming of these illegal practitioners because they not only put the lives of people at risk due to unscientific methods they employ, but also because they cannot be held accountable by the HPCSA in cases of negligence and complications arising from their interventions," he says.
Ina van der Merwe, CEO of international background screening company Kroll, says an ever increasing number of individuals were faking their qualifications and this included doctors, nurses and other medically related professions.
"The medical profession has become a favourite among fraudsters because of the potentially lucrative career opportunities it offers."
Referring to the recent arrest of four backstreet abortionists who have been arrested in Durban, she said her company had over the years uncovered many bogus doctors.
One of the best known cases was that of a well respected paediatrician who had been operating at an East Rand hospital for years: the only qualifications he had was that of a male nurse.
Van der Merwe says fraudulent qualifications across the board were on the increase with between 15 percent and 18 percent turning out to be fraudulent.
"The problem of 'professionals' faking their qualifications has reached near-epidemic proportions. Many have impressive fake diplomas from top universities complete with wax seals hanging in their offices that look exactly like the real thing, but are as fake as a R7 bank note."