I Have to Turn Kids Away, Psychologist Says as Industry ‘Crisis’ Deepens

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Cape Town – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi must urgently intervene in the funding crisis currently engulfing the field of educational psychology, the Educational Psychology Association of SA (Epassa) has said.

Epassa wrote to Motsoaledi this month to say it has become “disillusioned” with the attitude of both the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) and the Health Professions Council of SA’s (HPCSA) Professional Board for Psychology toward funding and scope of practice issues, which “have placed our profession in crisis”.

News24 reported in 2016 that as many as seven public and private medical aid schemes have refused to pay for the services of educational psychologists since April 2016.

The problem arose after the Health Professions Council of SA reclassified the industry’s scope of practice in 2011, differentiating between clinical psychologists, educational psychologists, and counselling etc.

Epassa subsequently took Motsoaledi and the HPCSA to court over the reclassification.

Epassa chairperson Dr. Martin Strous

“Before the court hearing commenced, the honourable minister of health conceded that the scope of practice was invalid,” Epassa chairperson Martin Strous said in a letter dated April 4.

“However, the main applicants to the court case ran out of funds and agreed that the scope of practice regulations would nevertheless operate for the next two years.

“This turn of events provides the Minister with an opportunity to amend the regulations before they lose their legal effect in two years’ time and has emboldened some to continue misinterpreting our profession. Our profession is floundering in the interim.”

Strous asked that Motsoaledi act decisively while he still can, as the lack of funding meant thousands were being denied treatment, especially children.

He said he will write to the HPCSA in the interim to suggest new guidelines to the scope of practice.

‘I have to turn kids away’

An education psychologist who runs her own practice in Woodstock, Cape Town, told News24 last year she has had to turn children living with conditions like dyslexia away over the funding crisis.

psykid2“It’s been extremely stressful. I’ve been submitting to government medical aids and all the other funds for four years now and have never had a problem,” she said, asking to remain anonymous.

She said she made a loss of around R40 000 for work she had already done in May and June of 2016.

A 64-year-old educational psychologist with 36 years’ experience in Port Elizabeth, Gerhardt Goosen, told News24 that he has lost 70% of his livelihood, and fears for the lives of some of his more troubled patients.

“It’s drastic. My practice itself, about 70% of it is gone. I’m seriously thinking of closing it and retiring. I’m 64, so it will be hard to find another job.”

He also said he received no notification of the change.

The HPCSA told News24 at the time that it is was aware of the current challenges, but that the change in scope was motivated by inadequate regulations.

Paul Herman
is a news journalist at News24.

This article appeared in News24 on 18 April 2017

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