Keeping tabs on doctor cheats
Cheating doctors in the Eastern Cape have forced the provincial health department to introduce duty registers.
Though doctors defrauding the system has become a nationwide phenomenon, the Eastern Cape is now taking action with the introduction of registers which doctors will have to sign every day to record the amount of time each one spends on duty.
This follows widespread abuse of the system with doctors spending less than a third of their shifts at work, but claiming for whole shifts at the end of each month, costing the government millions in the process.
An investigation by Sowetan has established that at just one hospital, the Nelson Mandela Hospital (NMH) in Mthatha, at least six doctors are in on the scam.
The six under investigation worked for between three and four hours a shift before moving to their private practices where they spent the rest of their days.
But the doctors claimed they had worked full shifts.
This practice has placed a heavy burden on honest doctors who have had to work double shifts or attend to patients in two wards at a time as a result.
Provincial health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo confirmed that his department had learnt of this fraudulent practice at the NMH.
Doctors who spoke to Sowetan on condition of anonymity complained that it was sometimes difficult to get these doctors back to the hospital in an emergency.
"We are at times forced to either delay the treatment of a patient or admit the patient overnight. At times they don't answer their phones," one doctor said.
The worst affected hospital departments were urology, neurology and diabetes treatment.