‘Unethical people taking advantage of vulnerable patients’ – health professionals warn against fake doctors
The case of bogus doctor Matthew Lani has turned a spotlight on other fake practitioners operating in the health sector. We take you through the latest on Lani and other dodgy medical practitioners who have been identified.
‘Dr’ Matthew Lani made headlines when it was discovered that the popular content creator was not a qualified medical practitioner at all and, in fact, didn’t even get his matric.
Lani has since claimed on a new social media page, which he initially set up to “verify” his qualifications, that he would soon be launching a brand of tea.
Multiple cases have been opened against Lani – including one for impersonating a doctor as well as a case of fraud and identity theft by Dr Sanele Zingelwa.
He continues to sell his “slimming pills” and offers medical advice on his TikTok page under the name Dr Matthew8.
Lani’s previous TikTok account, with almost 300,000 followers, was banned. His new account sits at almost 30,000 followers.
Through his new account, he claims that he had returned to the institution where he obtained his “high school diploma”, the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE).
In a video, Lani shows email correspondence between himself and the institution in which he requested a transcript of the International Certificate of Education (ICE) diploma.
He said he had forwarded this transcript to Cambridge International College for validation. However, the response from Cambridge was that they had no connections with the CAIE.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Unmasking TikTok’s bogus ‘Dr’ Matthew Bongani Lani
Lani promised his TikTok fans he would share more regarding his supposed qualifications on a live feed last Monday, but failed to do so. Lani has ignored attempts by Daily Maverick to contact him.
More bogus practitioners identified
Questions have also been raised over a social media user claiming to be a pharmacist at Dis-Chem and a graduate of the University of Limpopo (UL), who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in clinical pharmacy and pharmacology at the institution.
In scrubs and a lab coat with the University of Limpopo emblem, Nthabiseng Ramokolo poses as a junior pharmacist working for Dis-Chem from March 2022 to date.
As per her LinkedIn profile, Ramokolo claims to have studied for a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree at UL from 2018 to 2022. She also claims to be a community service pharmacist at WF Knobel Hospital in Lonsdale, Limpopo, as of January 2023.
However, the University of Limpopo said in a statement: “After checking all records, the university would like to state that Nthabiseng Ramokolo is not a UL pharmacy graduate and that she was never a student of the university. Additionally, her claims on social media that she is a master’s student at UL are false.”
The executive dean of the health sciences faculty at UL, Prof Tebogo Mothiba, said: “The records of the university do not contain any information on Nthabiseng Ramokolo, and our faculty members, as well as current and former students, have confirmed that they have never met her before.
“The use of UL, its name or logo, by anyone to misrepresent their academic qualifications is unlawful. UL reserves the right to take whatever action necessary to protect its reputation and the credibility of its qualifications.”
Dis-Chem has also refuted her claim that she is an employee.
“We can confirm that we do not have anyone by the name of Nthabiseng Ramokolo employed by the Dis-Chem group. We believe the LinkedIn account information listed on this profile to be inaccurate,” said Dis-Chem in a statement.
Daily Maverick was unable to reach Ramokolo for comment.
Fake doctor and pharmacist arrested
Meanwhile, a man by the name of Kingsley Leeto Chele, who also goes by Dr Kingsley Chele or Dr KJ Ncube, was rearrested on 16 October after escaping from custody.
It is alleged that Chele is a Facebook con artist who targeted women by misrepresenting himself as a doctor or a pharmacist, and scamming them out of money.
It’s also alleged that he posed as a medic seeking investors for his “Dr King Pharmacy” business, which does not appear in the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission registry.
He also reportedly advertised sick notes for sale on social media in 2019.
Chele was arrested on 2 October after two cases of fraud were registered in Sunnyside and Klipgat in June 2023. He was denied bail in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court and remanded in custody until his next appearance on 17 October.
The investigating officer roped in the Asset Forfeiture Unit to assist in attaching property believed to be the proceeds of crime, including a 2023 VW Golf GTI.
On 11 October, Chele managed to escape from custody while police were cataloguing household items at his residence. He was re-arrested in Vosloorus on Monday.
Health department scrambles
In response to an increase in fake medical practitioners appearing on social media, the Gauteng Department of Health said it was looking to improve its verification processes to ensure all medical personnel were who they claimed to be.
Studies consistently reveal that a multitude of challenges have significantly eroded the quality of public healthcare in South Africa. Consequently, this decline has resulted in a loss of public trust in the healthcare system.
According to South African Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, “The existence of bogus doctors is a result of unethical people taking advantage of vulnerable patients. Their behaviour is driven by personal gain and greed. They often find a loophole in the health system in both public and private sectors. Seeking healthcare is a necessary and urgent need for most patients.
“Sama notes that bogus doctors are practising on both physical and digital platforms.” It was difficult to ascertain the registration of online doctors using the HPCSA “especially if they are utilising online handles instead of their full names as they are likely to appear on the HPCSA website”.
The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) recently reported that 124 fraudulent medical professionals had been arrested over the past three years. Some HPCSA officials have to travel with security when they conduct checks on suspected fake doctors.
As the regulatory body for healthcare professionals in South Africa, the HPCSA is the only entity that can verify a medical doctor’s credentials and therefore it must be contacted about allegations of fraud.
Verification can be done by searching for the doctor on the HPCSA iRegister, on the HPCSA website or by calling the HPCSA on 012 338 9300/1. Fake doctors can also be reported via email at [email protected].
To avoid being scammed by fake doctors in South Africa, it’s essential to be vigilant and take precautions.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Verify the doctor’s credentials. Legitimate doctors in South Africa must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. You can check their registration status on the HPCSA website.
- Request to see the doctor’s official identification, which should include their name, registration number and a recent photograph.
- Ensure that the clinic or hospital where you are receiving treatment is reputable and registered. You can verify the facility’s registration through the HPCSA or the South African Nursing Council.
- If you have doubts about your diagnosis or treatment plan, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion from another qualified medical professional.
- Be cautious if a doctor makes grandiose promises or guarantees about treatments or outcomes. Genuine healthcare providers don’t offer miraculous cures.
- Ask for recommendations from friends, family or your primary care physician. Word-of-mouth referrals from trusted sources can help you find legitimate healthcare professionals.
- Check online reviews, ratings and patient testimonials, but be cautious as online information can be manipulated. Focus on official websites and credible review platforms.
- Legitimate doctors typically bill you for services after they have been provided. Be wary of doctors who demand large upfront fees, especially if they ask for payment through unconventional methods.
- If something doesn’t feel right or if you’re uncomfortable with the doctor’s behaviour or practices, seek healthcare elsewhere.
- If you believe you have encountered a fake doctor or a fraudulent medical practice, report it to authorities such as the HPCSA, the police or your local healthcare ombudsman.
- Familiarise yourself with common scams and fraud in the healthcare sector. Awareness is a powerful tool in preventing scams.
- Maintain copies of your medical records, including test results, prescriptions and invoices. This can help you in case of any disputes or concerns.
Mzukwa said, “It would also be helpful to have policies in place that compel medical practices to have visible information available, informing patients where they can check if a doctor is registered. The tech-savvy youth can also play a part here to help their elderly relatives, who may be questioning the credibility of a doctor, to find accurate information.”
Remember that while scams involving fake doctors can be concerning, most healthcare professionals in South Africa are highly qualified and dedicated to providing quality care.
By staying informed and following some of these and other precautions, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to fraudulent practices.
Daily Maverick sent inquiries to the HPCSA, but there was no response at the time of publication. DM