Doctors arrested in Port Elizabeth raids
Motherwell surgery shut down in probe of alleged illegal practices
Two men have been arrested after health and traffic regulatory authorities closed down a surgery in Nelson Mandela Bay on Wednesday pending an investigation into unlawful medical practices, dispensing of medicines and issuing of medical clearance certificates.
The arrest of the two men, who were allegedly practising illegally as doctors at a Motherwell surgery, followed raids by inspectors from the different organisations on at least 10 surgeries in the metro.
Two women – who were identified as nurses at the surgery – were taken in for questioning by police but released later.
It is alleged the men claiming to be doctors are unqualified and not registered to practise as doctors.
The operation was undertaken jointly by the Road Traffic Management Corporation, the National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
The patients visiting Dr Abiodun Odufu’s surgery in Motherwell NU7 on Wednesday afternoon were surprised to be told by the inspectors that the consulting doctors who had been working in Odufu’s rooms for the past few weeks, were allegedly doing so illegally.
Dr Odufu said he was surprised by the claims made by the inspectors.
“I have been a practising doctor for many years and I have had this surgery for over 10 years,” he said.
Odufu said he would from time to time get a doctor from a hospital to stand in at his rooms when he felt fatigued.
Asked whether the two doctors were employed by any hospital in the city, Odufu said they were still looking for employment.
“I’m shocked that the inspectors are arresting people and saying that they are not legal practitioners,” he said.
“They produced their documents to me. I have never used an unregistered doctor before.
“These doctors are fully registered and I gave the inspectors every information I have regarding this.
“However, they still insist that they are not registered.
“[Those arrested] have been here for a week or so.
“[They] were looking for a job so I thought in the meantime they could assist me.
“I was involved in a very serious accident so I do not want to overdo things.”
Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesperson Simon Zwane said the joint operation was part of their efforts to deal with alleged fraud relating to the issuing of public driver’s permits (PDPs).
The operation was targeted at specific surgeries identified during an investigation into the issuing of permits.
“There is a medical certificate that is filled in by a doctor who is supposed to do a full medical examination of the patient to ensure they are free of any ailment that could compromise them while driving, either a taxi or bus,” he said.
The medical report was then used to attain a permit.
“This is part of an ongoing investigation to address factors that lead to road traffic crashes and fatalities.
“A very high number of public driver’s permits are issued in Port Elizabeth, with 9,195 issued last year alone.
“This province also has a high number of road crashes and therefore deserves priority attention,” Zwane said.
The investigations were continuing and more arrests were expected to be made.
HPCSA senior manager Eric Mphaphuli said the council would ensure that Odufu underwent a disciplinary hearing for alleged professional misconduct.
He said despite Odufu claiming that he had provided the council with information proving the men were registered, the council had received no paperwork from him.
“In terms of the matter of the suspects who are unregistered practitioners, the matter will be handled by the police.
“For Dr Odufu, in terms of the Health Professions Act, we have to conduct a disciplinary inquiry.”
Mphaphuli said the investigation into the issuing of medical certificates by people who were not registered, or doctors who issued certificates without examining patients, had been ongoing across the country.
He said the aim of the inspections was to curb these unlawful practices by doctors, which would in turn reduce the number of PDPs issued to unfit drivers.
Amanda Stempa, who went to collect her blood results at the Motherwell surgery, said she arrived moments before one of the men – who was arrested later – made a run for it.
“I had visited the rooms during the last week of April for a fever I had, and the doctor – who was not Odufu – told me he wanted to run some blood tests,” she said.
“I was confused when he then told the nurse to take my blood because usually a doctor gives out a script.”
Stempa said the nurse had struggled that day to take her blood samples, making her visit very unpleasant.
She said while all the patients were busy arguing with the receptionist on Wednesday and trying to get clarity from the inspectors, the two men hired by Odufu had run out of the surgery.
“One doctor got into his car and sped off while the patients and members of the community who had gathered outside pursued the second doctor,” Stempa said.
The second man was apprehended by the community members and kept in one of the inspector’s vehicles until the police arrived.
It was discovered later that two women had locked themselves inside the dispensary.
After several warnings from the inspectors, the women opened the door, with a patient identifying one of them as being the person who had given her an injection moments before the inspectors arrived.
The women were taken into custody for questioning, but released later.
Another angry patient, who asked not to be named, said that she was visiting the surgery for the second time in two weeks.
“I have been coming to this surgery for years now – I live here in NU7 and it was my first time being assisted by a doctor I do not know.”
She said that one of the arrested men had not been able to read from her medical file what medication to dispense for her.
“I mean this man had my folder in his hands and I had to help him read it,” she alleged.
The woman said the second time she came to the surgery she had gone as far as bringing the containers of her medication.
“I am very upset at Dr Odufu for allowing this to happen.
“And I am very happy that they [the suspects] were caught out before something terrible happened,” she said.
Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said that, despite being provided with the case numbers, he could not confirm the arrests or provide information relating to the possible charges.