Where can I report a doctor in South Africa?

Practitioners often enquire if they can lodge a complaint against another practitioner whom they believe is unethical or practising outside the scope of their qualifications. The Health Professions Act does make provision for practitioners to lodge complaints against other professionals.

Provision is also made for patients to lodge a complaint against a practitioner whose conduct they consider to be unethical. The mandate of the HPCSA is to protect the public and guide the professions. Therefore, both practitioners and patients need to know and understand the complaints management process of the HPCSA, which is as follows:

  • Within seven (7) working days of receiving a complaint, the registrar forwards the complaint to the healthcare professional concerned and requests a written explanation from him/her;
  • A letter of complaint, together with the healthcare professional’s explanation (if submitted) is referred to the Professional Board concerned, for consideration;
  • Should the Board decide that there are grounds for complaint, a Professional Conduct Committee will hold a professional conduct enquiry, during which oral evidence is presented, often including independent, expert witnesses. (Note: Professional conduct enquiries are open to the public and the media, unless closed at the discretion of the chairperson);
  • Should the professional conduct enquiry find the healthcare professional guilty of misconduct, the committee’s decision is final, unless either party lodges an appeal.

A healthcare professional found guilty of professional misconduct may be subject to the following penalties:

  • A caution or a reprimand or both;
  • A fine;
  • Suspension for a specified period from practicing his/her profession;
  • Removal of his/her name from the relevant register;
  • A compulsory period of professional service or payment of the costs of the proceedings.

The committee deals with each complaint on its own merit. When committees decide to impose penalties, they are also guided by Gazetted Guidelines which they are bound to adhere to. A Committee of Prelim Chairs has recently been established. Chairpersons of all the four committees meet on a regular basis to ensure that there is consistency in terms of the resolutions adopted and penalties imposed.

Council is aware of the delay in the finalisation of complaints. A review is therefore being conducted on the current complaints management system. It is hoped that a complete overhaul of the system will result in an efficient system based on a quick turnaround time frame.