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A ministerial task team 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 body’s failure to function effectively. The team has recommended that an interim executive management team be appointed.

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

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi launched an investigation into the Council in March to scrutinise the 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, irregularities, mismanagement and poor governance at the Council.

The task team, led by the head of the University of Cape Town’s medical school, 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 on Thursday.

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 suspensions from their jobs.

All three refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Registrar Buyiswa Mjamba-Matshoba, who also functions as the chief executive, was found to display a lack of leadership and substandard work and COO Tshepo Boikanyo has been implicated in “acts of unauthorised, irregular and/or fruitless and wasteful expenditure”. 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 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.

Health practitioners and patients often wait for years for the Council 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 Council had lost their application documents. Foreign doctors cannot work in South Africa without registering with the HPCSA.

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

Motsoaledi is expected to make a further announcement next 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 Monday,” he said.

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Mia Malan is Bhekisisa's editor-in-chief and executive director. Under her leadership, Bhekisisa’s online readership increased 30 fold and its donor funding eightfold between 2013 and 2019. Malan has won more than 20 African journalism awards for her work and is a former fellow of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.