KZN Health MEC issues instruction for stricter vetting of interns at healthcare facilities; qualifications of all other staffers are also being vetted

02 September 2020

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu wants healthcare facilities to be stricter when screening and verifying the credentials of medical interns and allied health students for experiential training.

This follows two recent security breaches by people allegedly posing as medical interns.

In the latest incident, MEC Simelane-Zulu has commended the acting CEO of Nkonjeni Hospital, in Zululand District, for proactively alerting the authorities about the antics of a man who had posed as medical student, which led to his arrest on Monday.

It is alleged that the man had pretended to be a medical student in his fifth year of study, with the intention of conducting his elective module of family medicine at Nkonjeni Hospital. After allegedly producing his student card, followed by telephonic confirmation of his credentials by an alleged professor, the young man was reportedly allowed to shadow a senior doctor at the hospital.

According to hospital management, he never worked without supervision, and was also not allowed to prescribe medication.

The 24 year-old man, who has been charged with fraud, was arrested after police received a complaint about his alleged disappearance with a sum of R40 000 that he had borrowed from various Nkonjeni Hospital staffers.

However, he has not yet appeared in court due to an ongoing investigation. According to the SAPS, he is believed to have committed similar crimes in Gauteng.

In July 2020, media reports emerged about a young woman who had allegedly posed as a Wits University medical student, and reportedly had access to three healthcare facilities at various times. The matter is currently under investigation.

Commenting on the latest developments, MEC Simelane-Zulu said she had written to all health district directors to direct all health institutions to immediately stop the direct intake of students.

In line with the new protocols, healthcare facilities across the province will now only allow students in through head office.

The MEC has also issued a directive to the Department’s Human Resources Management unit to intensify and strengthen an already ongoing process to verify the credentials of all departmental staff.

MEC Simelane-Zulu said: “Firstly, we wish to thank the acting CEO of Nkonjeni Dr Ndumiso Xhakaza and his team for their vigilance, and swift actions when they picked up abnormalities with this person, which is what actually led to his arrest. In fact, Dr Xhakaza is himself a potential victim here, due to an indication that the perpetrator also tried to impersonate him.

"We're obviously concerned by these incidents. That is why, even after the first incident, we started reviewing our own internal processes that are followed when admitting these students. We realise that, in a quest to make the process easier and not too bureaucratic for students who need to do their practicals during the holidays, our systems might have had loopholes, which criminals have evidently tried to exploit. We are now changing our systems so that they are watertight. We cannot, under any circumstances, allow any unqualified person to have access to our patients.

"We have agreed that, from now on, students who need to do their practicals will have to follow a rigorous authentication and verification process so that, at all times, we deal with genuine people."

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This page last edited on 03 September, 2020

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