Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Dear Patients,
Peta Krost Maunder
          The Health Professions Council’s (HPCSA) window dressing motto is: “Protecting the public and guiding the profession.” In reality it protects the profession and leaves much to be desired when it comes to protecting the public. Add to that its appalling inefficiency and you have to wonder why it exists at all.
          For a start it lists its judgments on its website with the minimum of information about the accused, merely giving one initial, surname and their Council registration number with no address. It’s not bothered that this could lead to people confusing a guilty doctor with an innocent one with the same name.
Then too the charges, particularly “acts of a sexual nature,” are vague in the extreme. There are numerous types of sexual abuse from rape to sodomy to oral sex and unwanted sexual touching. The seriousness of them varies considerably but the Council’s website is not at all explicit when it comes to most of the doctors it charges. That’s how its learned members do their utmost to keep the dirty deeds of the profession under wraps as far as possible.
If it was at all interested in making sure that bad doctors get the maximum exposure it would follow the exceptional example set by the country’s only national Jewish newspaper, the South African Jewish Report.
It survived considerable pressure from some of its Jewish readers before telling the world about the sexploits of Dr Steven Levy, a fellow Johannesburg Jew who the Council had treated so exceptionally leniently. Here’s what happened when I put the Council to the test before I knew about the courage that Peta Krost Maunder, the editor of the Jewish Report, had shown.
On 23 October 2017 I emailed Priscilla Sekhonyana, the person I was told deals with the media. I asked her to give me the full names and addresses of doctors Levy, De Kock and Theocharous. I told her they were listed on the Council’s website as having been accused of sexual acts with a patient. De Kock was said to have tried to kiss a patient but no details were given for the others.
          She eventually replied 17 days later asking me to provide De Kock’s full names as “there are numerous practitioners with this surname on the HPCSA data base.”
          My initial email referred to the “attached doctors.” The attachments were the names of the doctors only with initials and their registration numbers which I had lifted from the website. But by mistake I didn’t include them and I only realised this when Priscilla asked for De Kock’s details. I then emailed them to her and on 14 November she replied. Here are my original questions and her mostly nonsensical answers in red.
1.    Dr Levy was found guilty of “performing acts of a sexual nature” with a patient on three occasions. Can you tell me what sort of acts these were? Was this with a man or a woman? Were different people involved in each case? These were various acts of a sexual nature. These were from three different female patients.
2.    Dr de Kock tried to kiss a patient. Was this patient a man or a woman? I am currently awaiting for the legal adviser in charge of the case to get back to me (this was in spite of the fact that this was listed on the website two months earlier).
3.    Dr Theocharous was struck off in March 2017 (the website listing date) for sexually assaulting his patient. Is this the same doctor who was found not guilty by a court of raping a woman who I assume was one of his patients? If this is so, how could the Council strike him off for something for which a court found him not guilty? The HPCSA cannot confirm if this is the same person.
The pantomime continued when I again asked for the full names and addresses. I pointed out that as the cases were heard months earlier the records must be available.
On 17 November she responded by saying that as both cases were being appealed the HPCSA would not be able to give me any more information until these had been finalised.
“What are the ones being appealed”, I asked in my next email. “And what about the full names and addresses?”
Three days later she finally disclosed that the appeals involved Levy and Theocharous. I was transported once more into the realms of the absurd when she added: “I cannot divulge the addresses of any practitioners. This is against the POPI Act.”
How the Protection of Personal Information Act applies in these cases only the HPCSA knows. It’s purpose it to ensure that all the country’s institutions act responsibly when storing personal information by holding them to account should they abuse this in any way.
Adv. Khumalo
        At one stage I appealed to Advocate Phelelani Khumalo, the Council’s Acting Registrar for help as I was getting nowhere with Priscilla. Kurlula Gain Mudluli, the Administrator replied saying she had passed my email onto him.
Well that turned out to be even more futile than dealing with Priscilla because I never heard anything from him.
The Jewish Report revealed that as early as 2012 women had complained to the HPCSA about GP Dr Levy’s kinky behaviour. He got his kicks from performing prolonged rectal examinations and vaginal ones when there were no medical reasons to justify these.
SA Jewish Report *shortened comment
       In typical style the Council took so long to deal with him that in July this year, nearly five years after the first complaint was made, he was found guilty on three counts and given a ridiculously inappropriate punishment that effectively means he will be suspended from practicing for only a year. The actual sentence was that he be barred from treating people for three years, with two being suspended, provided he is not found guilty of a similar offence during his period of suspension.
SA Jewish Report *shortened comment
         A suspended sentence is one of the Council’s most common charades, which only emphasises which side it is on.
Ironically the appeal that has been lodge in this case is from the Council’s own prosecutor Ernie Janzen who felt the penalty was too lenient. “One year for such serious charges is not suitable,” he was quoted as saying.
At the five day hearing in February this year the three women had a gruelling time testifying. And it was not until 23 August that Dr Kinky’s suspension finally began.
SA Jewish  Report *shortened comment
He was not only a sex pest but a liar as well. “To all my valued patients after 20 uninterrupted and committed years of service as a general practitioner, I have decided to take a well-needed and deserved sabbatical for a year,” he told his patients in a letter the day after his suspension began.
On WhatsApp he added insult to injury by announcing: “Temporarily closed for spiritual maintenance.”
He never apologised to any of his victims.
Peta  Krost Maunder's introduction
“Should we really have kept quiet about a doctor who was doing this to his own patients?” the Editor of the Jewish Report wrote in a September Editorial. “Would we be morally right to ignore this and not alert the community? We think not.
“It is our duty to protect the community and not to be bullied by people who are trying to silence the messenger because they don’t want this man to be seen in a negative light.”
If my experience is anything to go by the HPSCA is clearly doing its best to silence the messenger to protect doctors.
Peta had high praise for the women who came forward. “They will start the New Year afresh, knowing that they can let go of the nightmares and the horror of abuse and that they have done all they can to prevent this doctor from doing this to any other patient.”
Unlike the women in Dr Levy’s case Dr Spiros Theocharous’s accuser went through a traumatic court case in the Bloemfontein Supreme Court only to find that after being cross examined for more than three days Judge Lepano Lekwale did not believe her.  Two years ago he acquitted the 34 year old GP, whose surgery was in Ella Street, the Willows, Bloemfontein, citing lack of evidence.
Dr. Theocharous
She had told the court that he had been her doctor since 2010 on 7 May 2013 when she consulted him in his rooms complaining of a headache. An injection he gave her put her to sleep and that’s when she believed she was raped.
When she came round he was sucking her private parts before jumping back and zipping up his trousers. He then gave her a “baby” kiss and told her he loved her.
It is difficult to image why the woman would have made up such an elaborate story. The Sowetan newspaper reported that Spiros had a conviction for improper conduct with a patient in Canada where he had previously practised. He was fined R31 000 after admitting a sexual encounter with a minor.
During his trial the HPCSA revealed that it would be doing its own investigations. These resulted in Spiros being struck off. The Council must have believed the woman even if the Judge didn’t.
But this Doctor Protection Council wouldn’t elaborate about this to me.
His attorney Leon Kelbrink of MacRoberts Attorneys in Pretoria told me Spiros was appealing the findings and sentence and this would be heard next month on 1 December.
GP Dr Lukas Cornelius de Kock’s address is 750 Jacqueline Drive, Gasfontein, a suburb of Pretoria.  On the Council’s website he was said to have “acted in a manner that is not in accordance with the norms and standards of your profession in that you acted in a manner constituting unprofessional conduct of a sexual nature by sitting next to your patient and tried to kiss her.”
That is typical of the Council long winded charges.
De Kock was found guilty and the sentence was another doctor friendly one - a “Caution and Reprimand.” When I asked him if he had pleaded guilty he said: "I didn't do anything. My lawyer is handling the case."
So kissing your patient is not a big deal in the Council’s eyes. No account is taken of the fact that a doctor is an educated person who has taken the Hippocratic Oath and should definitely know not to do this. Inevitably the South African version of the Oath is symptomatic of the poor policing of the medical profession.
It ends with this gobbledegook: “But should I trespass or violate this oath, that God and society demand these violations against me.”
Adv. Khumalo and his Council seem to forget that in this internet age it’s impossible to keep doctor’s addresses and contact details secret especially when the Council takes action, however wishy washy, against them.
It’s difficult to have much faith in an organisation like the HPSCSA when nearly half its 12 member management team including the CEO/Registrar and the Chief Operating Officer are “acting.” Even the Ombudsman is an “Interim” appointment.
Jon, a Medical Watchdog who only prescribes strong medicine when it is desperately needed.

P.S. Going at its usual snail’s pace the Council has yet to feature Dr Johann van Rooyen on its website even though he was struck off four months ago.
See: caring doctor  ; newspaper immorality - cape times

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