MEDICAL practitioners will not have a lengthy grace period to pay their annual fees in 2007, according to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA). Council registrar Boyce Mkhize said practitioners were given six months' grace in 2006, and their names were only erased from the roll in October, and not April as they should be. The deadline for payment is April 1 every year. With annual fee reminders having been dispatched, practitioners could expect to be erased soon, he said.
Dentists, doctors, psychologists and optometrists are the highest paying practitioners, paying R800-odd annually. Anaesthetic assistants, assistant clinical technologists are the lowest paying practitioners, at under R200 annually. Of the 123 000 practitioners registered with the HPCSA, nearly 9 000 of them are erased each year for not paying their fees. Mkhize said that the council had made a concerted effort to inform practitioners of their need to pay their dues, but unfortunately in spite of all these efforts, some practitioners would rather wait to be erased first before they pay, said Mkhize. Once a practitioner is erased, he or she will have to pay a penalty fee to be restored to the register. Those who apply within six months after erasure will pay twice the fee for the current year, as well as the outstanding fees. After six months but within 12 months of the erasure date, the amount rises to four times the annual fee, plus the outstanding fees. The HPCSA has in the past taken steps to encourage practitioners to remain on the register. These included a three-month general amnesty earlier this year allowing practitioners back on the roll without paying any penalties.
THE Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has urged medical practitioners to charge above medical aid rates only with patient consent. It was commenting after talks with the Society for General and Family Practitioners (SGFP) and the National Convention on Dispensing (NCD). HPCSA registrar Boyce Mkhize said the Council used the National Health Reference Price List as a norm simply because this was the rate at which medical aids reimbursed their patients, which did not amount to making a value judgment on its adequacy. Although it had set an ethical tariff as a milestone in determining when patients were overcharged, this tariff should not be regarded as a target at which the fees should be set. As was the case in any profession, medical practitioners could set fees at rates they could justify with patients, taking into account their experience, skills and qualifications, the Council said. Mkhize said the HPCSA did not want to get into "the muddy waters of tariff setting" and encouraged studies that would broadly reflect the fair and reasonable rate at which healthcare practitioners should charge patients.
Karen Breytenbach: The Cape Times
THE Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) will be offering an amnesty to former members who have defaulted on their annual fees in a bid to entice professionals back to the struggling local health sector. The amnesty from February 1 to April 30 will enable practitioners who were deregistered for non-payment of annual fees to get back onto the HPCSA's register. Healthcare professionals are not allowed to practice in South Africa unless they are registered with the HPCSA.
The amnesty is part of the campaign Operation Buyelekhaya (Come back home) and is aimed at practitioners who had left the country and allowed their registration to lapse, according to HPCSA communications officer Tendai Dhliwayo. Dhliwayo said the council did not yet have an estimate of how much money it could lose through the amnesty.
Dhliwayo warned that once the amnesty period is over, the council's leniency with non-payment would end. Membership fee rates for all types of practitioners, save medical orthotists and prosthetists, have increased slightly from last year. Medical practitioners are required to pay R834.68 this year, as opposed to R764.00 last year.
Dentists pay R835.76 this year as opposed to R765 last year. Psychologists' fees went up from R784 to R856.52, paramedics' fees increased from R400 to R460 and physiotherapists' fees increased from R538 to R587.77. Optometrists and opticians paid R810 last year, and will pay R884.93 this year. In total, from 2000 to 2006, 12 224 medical and dental professionals have defaulted on their payments and were booted off the council's register. This includes 1 618 dentists and 10 295 medical doctors. In dental and oral hygiene, a total of 1 365 members have defaulted on their payments from 2000 to 2006.
In the field of emergency medicine, including paramedics and ambulance assistants, a staggering 25 302 members defaulted on their payments in the same period. Altogether 1 672 physiotherapists also failed to pay their fees over the last six years.