The Council of Medical Schemes will be investigating claims of racial discrimination in healthcare. The Council made this commitment on SABC’s Morning Live on Wednesday.
The probe follows revelations by Black and Indian healthcare practitioners that they’re not treated the same as their white counterparts by medical aid schemes. The health workers also claim they’re being exploited and harassed.
After days of wrangling, the medical schemes council has finally weighed in. CEO of the Council, Sipho Kabane, says they are opposed to any conduct involving racial profiling and harassment.
“We are opposed to any conduct that includes racial profiling, harassment, bullying and blacklisting of service providers. These actions are not permissible by Medical Schemes Act and the Constitution.”
The Council will now probe the claims levelled against medical aids. One of the aggrieved practitioners is Dr Senathi Fisha who has been a psychologist for more than two decades. Her practice collapsed following what she cites as bullying by medical aids.
“I received a letter and they said to me ‘we are not going to pay into your account, we are actually not going to pay patients if they come to you.’ They have practically closed down the business. Since December 2017, I’ve never been able to see a patient who is a patient for Discovery.”
Fisha is one of over 1000 who claim they’ve been racially targeted.
“This is total discrimination. Why did they just choose only white hospital when the majority of their members are black? They are blocking the black patients from coming to us and they encourage them to go to white hospitals. Everything here is white; if they say it’s the machine that selects, this why is there no black hospital.”
A speech therapist was forced to shut down her practice after an audit. She says she signed an acknowledgement of debt under duress.
“I was shattered, I felt stupid for signing at all the intimidation and all the things they were saying. I kept finding myself thinking about my children, what if I am arrested? I was tired of being harassed by Bonitas and Gems, they were harassing me and stopped paying and saying they deducting money I owed. My life has never been the same it went from up there to underneath, from 10 to negative 20, it went backwards things are hard still.”
National Healthcare Professionals Association’s Dr Prudence Buthelezi encouraged black practitioners from signing an acknowledgement of debt.
“Once you sign that acknowledgement of debt, then you’ve put yourself now as fraudulent and you have to pay them back. So that thing has caused many black practitioners to commit suicide and have depression. If any healthcare practitioner is doing wrong, they should call the police and open a case.”
The SABC sought comment from the implicated medical schemes about the allegations levelled at them, but only Discovery responded. They say they only act against practitioners suspected of fraud.
“These issues have nothing to do with race and everything to do with fraud and billing abuse. We do have from time to time, blocked from payment cumulatively after many years. That list sits at 367 people out of 35 000; we have no idea of the race. Consider the volumes of the claims its 200 000 claims a day its machines doing this they identify the risks, our investigators call and meet with people.”
However, affected practitioners are not buying this. They’ll be picketing outside Discovery next week.