‘Bogus doctor misdiagnosed me and put my foot in a cast’
A clinical nurse contracted to work at Kasselsvlei Clinic, in Bellville, pretended to be a doctor and acted like one
A Cape Town clinic “doctor” told Thandeka Konile-Mdekazi she had broken her foot, and put her in a cast.
But a few days later her GP discovered she only had a swollen ligament, at which point Konile-Mdekazi realised the “doctor” was an impostor.
Now the Western Cape health department is investigating allegations that a clinical nurse it contracted to work at Kasselsvlei Clinic, in Bellville, pretended to be a doctor and performed duties he is not qualified for.
Konile-Mdekazi, a former employee of the department who once worked with the medic, said she visited the clinic in December after she injured her ankle and it became swollen.
Even though she had already consulted another doctor, she wanted an X-ray “just to have peace of mind”.
A senior nurse directed her to see the “doctor”, who first told her the swelling could be due to congestive heart failure.
“He quickly noticed that the other foot was not swollen so he recommended that I have X-rays done. He said that I have a fracture in my foot and that a plaster of paris (protective cast) must be applied,” she said.
Konile-Mdekazi has since lodged a complaint with the head of department, Dr Beth Engelbrecht, claiming the alleged “locum doctor” – originally from Nigeria – mismanaged her.
“There are two possible scenarios about this doctor,” Konile-Mdekazi told Times Select.
“Either he lied about his qualifications and duped the department into believing that he is a qualified medical doctor. The department probably failed to vet him before employing him on contract.
“Another scenario is that the department knows that he is not a doctor, but is using him to perform duties of a medical doctor even though they know that he is not qualified.”
Department spokesperson Mareth Lesch confirmed the “doctor” is a clinical nurse practitioner who was employed on contract to work at the clinic until the end of January.
Lesch said allegations that the nurse performed the duties of a doctor, such as ordering X-rays and reading radiology reports, were being investigated. Part of the investigation included allegations that the man did not wear a nurse’s uniform or epaulettes that identified his status.
The Health Professions Council of SA, which regulates doctors, confirmed it did not have the man’s name on its records.
Priscilla Sekhonyana, the regulator’s spokesperson, raised concerns about the number of unqualified people impersonating doctors. Last year alone the council identified 28 bogus doctors who were arrested – 10 in Gauteng, eight in KwaZulu-Natal, six in the Western Cape and four in the Eastern Cape.
Konile-Mdekazi said her frustration with “unendurable pain and having a heavy and wet” cast on her foot drove her to seek a second opinion from a GP, “who identified immediately that I didn’t have a fracture, but a swollen ligament”.
She said: “I showed her the X-rays, and after looking closely she was very shocked because there was no fracture in my foot. She showed me images of normal versus abnormal feet on a computer screen. Mine matched the normal feet.
“She removed the cast and treated me with anti-inflammatories and I was fine again.”
Even though she had worked with the “doctor” a decade ago, Konile-Mdekazi said she ignored her sixth sense that he was not qualified.
“Everybody at the clinic referred to him as a doctor, including the sister-in-charge who referred me to him. I asked him repeatedly whether he was now a fully fledged doctor. When I last saw him he was a professional nurse.
“He said: ‘Yes, I’ve been a doctor for a number of years now after I completed my PhD’. He told me that he also worked at Tygerberg Hospital. That left me rather confused as being a doctor academically is not the same thing as being a medical doctor.”
Lesch said a second complaint against the medic was also being investigated. “The department is committed to quality care and ethical standards of providing patient care,” she said.
“It is imperative for clients who are not satisfied with the service, or who have a concern, to raise it immediately with the facility manager or quality assurance manager so they can look into it immediately and allay their concerns.”