Paying commission for patient recommendations

Paying another person, either directly or indirectly, in order to recommend patients to your healthcare practice or ambulance service, is in direct contradiction with the Guidelines for Good Practice in the Healthcare Professions.

Booklet 5, ‘Guidelines on Over Servicing, Perverse Incentives and Related Matters’, is clear regarding the expectations of conduct for healthcare professionals in this regard. To pay another person in return for patients to be recommended to your practice is unethical, unprofessional, and unacceptable.

There is unfortunately a growing trend in the South African EMS industry for third parties at the scenes of medical emergencies to discourage patients from seeking care from one ambulance service, towards giving preference to another ambulance service. This behaviour is often the result of a monetary reward being paid by a private ambulance service or EMS practitioner to these third parties, or may even be the result of third parties having a financial interest in the performance of a specific ambulance service.

It needs to be publicly and categorically stated that behaviour such as this should not be tolerated by any sector of the healthcare industry. Not only does this behaviour tarnish your reputation as a practitioner, it also tarnishes the reputation of the private ambulance industry as a whole.

SAPAESA is publicly calling on the Health Professions Council of South Africa to take a leading role in the investigation and eradication of such behaviour as a matter of utmost priority. Should you as a healthcare practitioner be aware of any of your healthcare colleagues participating in such a manner, you are encouraged to formally lodge a complaint with the HPCSA in regard to such conduct as soon as possible.

Patients should always be allowed to exercise their right to make use of a healthcare provider of their choosing, without being obstructed by undue influence or unprofessional bias.

As an industry we must clearly demonstrate that unethical behaviour will not be tolerated, and that a tarnished reputation for one of us is indeed a tarnished reputation for all of us.

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