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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574

SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.98 n.6 Pretoria Jun. 2008




An 'amnesty' for health professionals?



Tendai Dhliwayo

Communications Officer: HPCSA PO Box 205 Pretoria 0001



To the Editor: The letter, 'An "amnesty" for health professionals?',1 refers.

As a regulatory body, the Health Professions Council of South Africa subscribes to the tenets of open communication, visibility and accessibility with all concerned. While we respect people's rights to express their opinions about the HPCSA, it is worrying and misleading when statements are made without substantiation.

Dr Driver-Jowitt made disturbing fabrications without giving tangible information that would allow investigations to be carried out in the event of misdemeanours. For example, the writer dwelt on 'nepotistic appointments, which were totally inappropriate for a body of its nature'. Council is not aware of any such appointments, and will always follow normal procedures in the form of advertisements in national publications and on Council's website when a post becomes vacant for anyone to access and apply.

The HPCSA is a sensitive institution that strives to uphold an open-door policy with its stakeholders, always communicates its policies and developments to the public, and has gone out of its way to accommodate everyone on issues that could affect stakeholders negatively. It is therefore confusing when Driver-Jowitt alleges such characteristics as 'lack of insight, authoritarian, unapproachable and rigid' at the door of the HPCSA. Rather, Council is approachable and endeavours to reach out to practitioners, especially with its 'road shows' where Council and practitioners meet and discuss various issues. Council always communicates with its practitioners on the need to alert the regulatory authority in the event of a break from their work. In such events, one goes on voluntary erasure which means one is exempted from paying annual fees for the duration of the absence.

However, some individuals disappear without informing Council and are eventually erased from the register of practitioners because of non-payment of fees. For such transgressions, one is expected to pay a fee to get back onto the register. This is a normal procedure expected of any regulatory body, not only in South Africa.

Finally, Council's use of terms like 'penalty', 'amnesty' and 'community service' is appropriate as these are used in circumstances where practitioners have erred and, as a corrective measure, certain steps are employed to put right practitioners' misdeeds. It must be remembered that penalties are not applied to practitioners for leaving the country but for failure to adhere to what they are expected to do - inform.

Hiding behind the veil of a 'conducted poll', Driver-Jowitt has concocted issues and gone on a personal vendetta by resorting to dramatic and disingenuous statements that are completely detached from happenings at the HPCSA.

Council will continue to reach out and be accessible as usual and, as it has been doing, strive to come up with sound initiatives meant for the good of its practitioners, the professions and the public.



1. Driver-Jowitt JP. An 'amnesty' for health professionals? S Afr Med J 2008; 98: 68.         [ Links ]



Dr Driver-Jowitt replies: Embarrassing as it is, this letter from the Health Professions Council makes my points better than I could have done. The HPCSA says it is 'confused' when people complain of its lack of insight and other failings. However, when these things are explained, this type of aggressive response results.

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