A Ministerial Task Team set up by Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has found the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to be “in a state of multi-system organisational dysfunction” which has resulted in the failure of the council to function effectively.

The HPCSA regulates the education, training, registration and practice of health professionals.

The investigation was launched in March 2015 by the Health Minister following complaints in more than 30 anonymous letters that had been submitted to the office of the HPCSA’s president between November 2014 and January 2015. The letters alleged maladministration and improper eHealth procurement procedures at the HPCSA.

The task team, led by the Head of Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and chairperson of the National Health Research Committee, Professor Bongani Mayosi, was given 60 days for its investigation, but eventually took six months to complete its work. Only the executive summary of the team’s 90 page report was released at a press conference in Pretoria.

The task team has concluded that the HPCSA’s Chief Executive, COO and Head of Legal Services are unfit for their jobs and recommended that “appropriate disciplinary and incapacity proceedings” against them be instituted along with possible suspension pending the completion of these proceedings.

The executive summary states the CEO, COO and the Head of Legal Services co-operated with the task team’s investigation.

Registrar Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba, who also functions as the Chief Executive, was found to display a lack of leadership and substandard work and the COO, Tshepo Boikanyo, has been implicated in “acts of unauthorised, irregular and/or fruitless and wasteful expenditure.” Referring to the findings of a KPMG forensic audit conducted in 2011, the task team concluded that Boikanyo had been implicated in the irregular awarding of a R30m Oracle information technology contract, which was not put out to tender.

Phelelani Khumalo, who is the Head of Legal Services, is accused of overseeing a “dysfunctional system of professional enquiries which has prejudiced practitioners and the public.” The investigation revealed that the legal department does not employ a single medical practitioner, or member with a medical background, in the legal department to assist with professional conduct enquiries. Therefore, there are insufficient health professionals within the HPCSA to guide the health professions.

Health practitioners and patients often wait for years for the HPCSA to process complaints and some foreign doctors have had to wait for as long as five years before their registration is completed. This is after they would have had to repeatedly apply for registration, because the HPCSA had lost their application documents. Foreign doctors are required to register with the HPCSA in order to work in the country.

The task team recommended that the HPCSA be split into two bodies – one for doctors and dentists, and another for other health professionals such as therapists, nurses and pharmacists.

Dr Motsoaledi is expected to make a further announcement this week. “There are other very important aspects relating to other complaints affecting the HPCSA but these did not form part of the mandate of the Ministerial Task Team. They are being carefully worked on in a separate process. I will make a separate announcement on this,” said Dr Motsoaledi.

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