Doctor sidesteps fraud probe, but still faces R22m headache
Dr David Grieve stands accused of fleecing patients, but he has dodged a hearing with HPCSA – for now
A Gauteng doctor implicated in a R22m fraud case involving patients has secured a minor legal victory against the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) by arguing it did not have jurisdiction to find him guilty of professional misconduct.
Dr David Stephen Grieve has been embroiled in allegations of fraud for more than a decade, with claims that, from 2004 to 2009, he persuaded several patients and former patients to invest in a company he was a director of. However, he allegedly knew the company in question was in financial distress and that it was set to be liquidated, and moved the funds into his private bank account.
While the criminal case against him continued, the HPCSA’s professional conduct committee (PCC) launched an inquiry in 2014 into his conduct for allegedly bringing the medical profession into disrepute.
Throughout those proceedings, Grieve insisted the committee had no jurisdiction over him for his actions outside of the medical profession and approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for relief.
Judge Nomsa Khumalo acknowledged, in a written ruling at the end of February, that Grieve had argued the charges against him were “entirely unrelated to the health profession”.
“In essence, Dr Grieve’s argument was that the conduct that is the subject of the complaint is outside the medical profession practice, as it has nothing to do with the execution of his professional services as a medical practitioner, therefore it did not amount to a medical misconduct complaint. The PCC dismissed the contention,” wrote Judge Khumalo.
While Grieve initially asked for a review application of whether the PCC should be holding the inquiry, the committee argued that, as it had reported his conduct to the police, “it had a duty towards the public to proceed with the inquiry against him, whilst the charges against him are entirely to the professional misconduct”.
The HPCSA asked the high court to uphold the committee’s decision to continue the inquiry against Grieve, alleging it was going to lead evidence that the doctor approached and persuaded patients to invest in his companies during their medical visits. However, Grieve had argued that was irrelevant in determining the committee’s jurisdiction.
The judge questioned if the HPCSA had the power to institute such proceedings. “It is a fact that for conduct to bring the profession under disrepute upon which the HPCSA can discipline, Grieve’s act must pertain to his profession. The conduct must significantly have something to do with him as a health professional or the performance of his duties as a health practitioner,” she ruled.
“The allegations are not that Grieve used his influence or position as the investor’s doctor to persuade them to invest with the companies, conduct that would undoubtedly have put the health profession into disrepute, but the complaint is that Grieve persuaded the patients to invest in the companies when he knew, or ought to have known, that the companies were in financial distress. So would the HPCSA have charged Grieve had the companies not been in distress?” she asked.
Grieve had argued the committee owed no duty to the public against a practitioner who had not yet been proven guilty. “It is only after conviction that the duty of the committee arises to deal with the accused member in a manner that will adequately protect the public against him,” said Khumalo.
The HPCSA, she ruled, would have to await the outcome of criminal court proceedings to make a value judgment on whether or not Grieve’s alleged offences amounted to unprofessional conduct.
The judge ruled that not only was the committee found not to have jurisdiction over Grieve’s matter currently, the HPCSA was also ordered to pay the costs of the application.