/ 6 January 2016

HPCSA ignores recommendations of ministerial task team

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) says recommendations put forth by a ministerial task team, which would amount to a complete overhaul of the “dysfunctional” organisation, are “advices or proposals and therefore not binding”.  

Last year, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi set up a task team to investigate an increasing number of complaints against the HPCSA, which regulates health professionals. Complaints included allegations of maladministration, irregularities, mismanagement and poor governance at the HPCSA. 

The investigation found that the council “is in a state of multisystem organisational dysfunction” and recommended that disciplinary proceedings be instituted against the registrar, chief operating officer and head of legal services, who all refused to co-operate with the investigation.

Delays with the professional conduct enquiries system, which is overseen by the head of legal services, were found to prejudice practitioners and cause the public to lose faith in the HPCSA’s complaints system. One such example is the case of Wouter Basson, the former head of the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme who was found guilty of unethical conduct in December 2013. It took more than a decade to reach this conclusion and a penalty has yet to be imposed. 

Sentencing hearings in this matter have stalled multiple times after Basson lodged an application to have the committee members and chairperson hearing his case recuse themselves. The HPCSA rejected this application. Now the hearings are on hold pending the outcome of a court review application challenging the committee’s decision to refuse Basson’s recusal application.

Another recommendation from the ministerial report is that an interim executive management team be appointed. 

But the HPCSA says it is conducting its own investigation and studying the ministerial task team’s report, and will “then make its own decisions on all matters pertaining to the report”. 

Meanwhile, says the Council, the “operations of the HPCSA have not been disrupted”.