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Seven year overview (2007-2013) of ethical transgressions by registered healthcare professionals in South Africa

Nico Nortje
Willem Hoffmann


A move has taken place internationally in the delivery and “consumption” of health care where if clients and patients (health care consumers) hold the opinion that the health care professionals/providers' behaviour has had a negative effect, impact or outcome on them, they may lodge a complaint with the relevant health professional regulatory body. Ethical transgressions of health care providers can generally be clustered into the following three categories: a) Competence and conduct with clients (e.g. abandonment, sexual intimacies, dishonesty, disclosure of information); b) Business practices (e.g. billing, reports, documentation); and c) Professional practice (e.g. referral upon termination, obtaining appropriate potential employment opportunities, nonprofessional relationships). The primary objective of this study was to analyse the ethical transgressions of registered members of the twelve professional boards in the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) in the period 2007 to 2013. A mixed methods approach was followed in this study which specifically focused on a historical research approach. The results indicate that the boards with the highest number of transgressions per the registered practitioners were firstly the Medical and Dental practitioners, closely followed by the Optometry and Dispensing Opticians Board. The predominantly complaint made against members of both these boards was for fraudulent conduct (collectively totalling to 85% of all fraudulent cases during the period) and included actions such as charging for non-rendered services, issuing false statements and submitting fraudulent medical aid claims. Cognisance needs to be taken that the South African public will increasingly demand better services and that since they are being better informed via the media of their rights and have access to a broader database of knowledge (rightly or wrongly so the internet) practitioners' opinions will not necessarily be accepted outright and that they (the public) will challenge it accordingly. This raises the concern that practitioners need to take on the responsibility to communicate with their patients/clients in order to educate them and keep them informed.