Bid to block report into racial profiling of black doctors by medical schemes launched

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi chaired an investigation into allegations of racial profiling against black, coloured and Indian doctors. The investigation followed allegations by members of the National Health Care Professionals Association (NHCPA) that they were being unfairly treated and their claims withheld by medical aid schemes based on race and ethnicity. File image
Picture: REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA

The Government Employees Medical Scheme (Gems) and the Board of Healthcare Funders have urgently gone to court on Sunday to interdict the public release of an interim report about racial discrimination against doctors by medical schemes.

The application says the interim report — due to be publicly released at midday on Sunday at a press conference, makes “scathing allegations and findings in relation to Gems (and others)”.

The applicants say Gems has not seen the interim report or been given an opportunity to comment on it. It was also not — in terms of the Medical Schemes Act or the investigation’s terms of reference — supposed to be released to the public at the interim stage.

The application — set to be heard on Sunday afternoon — says Gems was informed that the interim report contained findings “that some of the current procedures followed by the medical schemes to enforce their rights in terms of s59 of the MSA are unfair, that black providers are unfairly discriminated against on the grounds of race and that there is unfair discrimination in outcomes”.

The applicants said that should these findings be made public “without the schemes having been first afforded the right to consider the interim report”, it would “permanently tarnish the names and reputations of the schemes concerned”.

“There is no way of undoing such harm once it has been inflicted,” they said.

However, in an answering affidavit, chairperson of the investigation panel Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC said the panel had from the outset made it clear that the process would be a public one and that the panel would be “accountable to the public as much as to the Council for Medical Schemes and the parties”.

He said the applicants had made extensive submissions — written and oral — during the investigation and they knew from November 27 that the panel was going to publicly release the interim report. The urgency of their court case was “self-created”, he said.

“The public is entitled to know what the findings — even at interim stage — are,” said Ngcukaitobi.

The investigation was announced in June last year by the Council for Medical Schemes and established to look into complaints including ones of racial profiling, black listing for payments, blocked payments, demands for confidential clinical information, bullying and harassment.

By Franny Rabkin -TimesLIVE

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