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Doctors avoid specialising in high risk disciplines

Doctors are avoiding “high risk” specialist medical disciplines like obstetrics and gynaecology due to an increase in medical malpractice claims. This was revealed by the Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi when addressing various stakeholders, including health experts, hospital groups, managers and interested parties in the health industry, at the Medico Legal Summit held in March this year.

He said there was an alarming increase in medical malpractice claims and the increased indemnity insurance rates caused doctors to avoid specialising in medical disciplines that are at high risk for litigation. These include obstetrics and gynaecology, neurosurgery, neonatology and orthopaedics.

Doctors are now practicing defensive medicine: over-investigating, unnecessary referrals and unnecessary tests that are not at the best interest of the patient. Some specialists, such as obstetricians and gynaecologists, are opting to practice gynaecology only.

Motsoaledi announced that the Department of Health would be advertising a position for their first ombudsman. The role of the ombudsman is to address the challenges in both private and public healthcare.

The HPCSA welcomes the announcement and believes it is long overdue. The Health Ombudsman will work very closely with the HPCSA. Matters that come to the HPCSA that are related to facilities will be referred to the health ombudsman.

On the other hand, matters that fall within the mandate and competency of the HPCSA, will be handled by itself. The HPCSA is the statutory body mandated to act in terms of Section 41 of the Health Professions Act. Issues around negligence related to unprofessional conduct is of particular concern to the HPCSA.

The HPCSA calls upon all the health professionals to make the ethical principles of beneficence, non-maleficence and respect for patient autonomy, the backdrop against which they interact with their patients at all times.

Practitioners are also reminded that as professionals they should place the interests of their patients above their own at all times. The HPCSA believes that if health professionals uphold their ethical standards and their ethical codes of conduct, these will result in the reduction of medical negligence cases and claims.

The HPCSA agrees with the minister that the ‘first solution to this problem is medical before we talk about the administrative and legal solutions’.

Last Updated on 14 May 2015 by HPCSA Corporate Affairs