The Homeopathic Doctor in South Africa

Why a homeopath can be considered your primary health care practitioner

 

Local and international demand for homeopathy has grown exponentially over the past 30 years.  This demand resulted in the creation of formalised training in South Africa, which is closely aligned with the training of medical doctors, and is recognised as an ‘education of excellence’ both nationally and internationally [1].

 

'Homeopathy is a well establish system of medicine, with increasing public demand'

 

Homeopathic training and registration in South Africa:

Currently, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) offer degree’s in homeopathy. This involves a 5-year full-time theoretical and practical training course, followed by a Master’s level research project. After fulfilment of these criteria, a Master’s Degree in Technology (Homeopathy) is awarded. The course comprises of a strong core of medical subjects, such as the basic sciences of Anatomy, Physiology, Medical Microbiology, Biochemistry and Epidemiology, and the clinical sciences of Pathology and Diagnostics. This is complemented with subjects in Classical, Clinical and Modern Homeopathy and Homeo-Pharmaceutics [2;3]. The outline of this course is unique, as no other country offers comprehensive medical training alongside homeopathic training, and thus a registered homeopath in South Africa is legally considered a Health Care Practitioner.


 'Homeopaths in South Africa are trained within the context of the medical paradigm, and are considered primary health care practitioners'

 

By law, any person practicing homeopathy in South Africa must be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). This is essential, as the Council ensures both medical, diagnostic and homeopathic competency of practitioners, and that the activities of registered practitioners are closely monitored by the Professional Board. The purpose of the AHPCSA is to ensure that only those with legitimate qualifications of a high enough standard are registered and allowed to practice in South Africa, thus protecting the public against any fraudulent behaviour and illegal practitioners.

Therefore, in order for effective homeopathic treatment, it is essential to be aware that any person wishing to prescribe homeopathic medicine or practice homeopathy in South Africa must be registered as a Homeopathic Practitioner with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa. This includes conventional Medical Practitioners (dual registration is allowed for Medical Practitioners with both the Health Professions Council and AHPCSA) [4], as homeopathy requires several years of training in order to apply effectively in clinical practice. You can confirm registration of your homeopathic practitioner by requesting their registration number and contacting the AHPCSA directly.

 

‘It is essential to be aware that any person wishing to prescribe homeopathic medicine or practice homeopathy in South Africa must be registered as a Homeopathic Practitioner with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa’

 

A homeopath as a Primary Healthcare Practitioner:

Registration with the Council affords medico-legal rights similar to those of a medical professional, where treatment is limited to the scope of homeopathic practice. Thus a homeopath is firstly a trained diagnostician, and with successful registration with the Council, obtains the title Doctor. A homeopath is trained and legally obliged to conduct a full medical history, a comprehensive clinical examination, and request further medical investigations, such as blood tests and X-rays, in order to fully assess patients. This is coupled with the ability to consult with specialist pathologists and other medical specialists when necessary, and refer a patient to the appropriate practitioner if the condition falls outside the scope of homeopathic practice. A homoeopath may also legally issue a certificate of dispensation (‘Doctor’s note’) with appropriate evidence and within reason, and is deemed responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of patients under their care [4].

 

‘A homeopath is firstly a trained diagnostician that legally obtains the title Doctor, and is able to conduct a full medical history, a comprehensive clinical examination, and request further medical investigations, such as blood tests and X-rays, in order to fully assess and diagnose a patient’

 

A homeopath is not trained or licensed in any form of surgery, specialist diagnostics (e.g. colonoscopy or angiograms), cannot prescribe prescription medication and is not lawfully allowed to conduct intra-venous treatment of any kind. However, a registered homeopath is licensed to use intra-muscular homeopathic injectables in the treatment of various local or systemic complaints when necessary.

 

Homeopathy as first line treatment:

Conventional (allopathic) medicine generally targets specific biochemical processes with mostly chemically synthesised medication, in an attempt to suppress a symptom. However, in doing so, this usually negatively affects other biochemical reactions which results in an imbalance within the system. Homeopathy, by contrast, seeks to re-establish a balance within the natural functioning of the body, restore proper function and results in the reduction or cessation of symptoms.  Homeopathy therefore facilitates the body to self-regulate and self-heal, a process known as homeostasis that is intrinsic to every living organism.

Conventional medical treatment is by no means risk free. Iatrogenic (medically induced) deaths in the United States are estimated at 786 000 per year, deaths which are considered avoidable by medical doctors [5;6]. These figures put annual iatrogenic death in the American medical system above that of cardiovascular disease and cancer as the leading cause of death in that country [9], a fact that is not widely reported!

South African figures are not easily available, but it is likely that we have similar rates. Although conventional medications have a vital role, are sometimes necessary and can of-course be life-saving, all too often too many patients are put on chronic medication when there are numerous effective, natural, safe and scientifically substantiated options available.  These include, amongst others, lifestyle and dietary changes, adequate nutrition and supplementation, herbal treatment and homoeopathy – all requiring specific training for adequate, safe and effective implementation. 

 

'First line therapy with a safe and effective form of natural treatment, managed by a professional with the ability to refer to a specialist if required, should be the starting point for almost every medical complaint for every age group'

 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), homeopathy is the second largest system of medicine in the world, and world-wide use continues to grow in developed and developing nations [8]. Homeopathy is widely considered to be safe and effective, with both clinical and laboratory research providing evidence indicating the treatment is effective [9].

Homeopathy should therefore be considered a first-line therapy for all ages in South Africa. As homeopaths in South Africa are legally recognised primary health care practitioners, if a conventional approach is deemed necessary, and further diagnostics are required, your practitioner will not hesitate to refer you to the appropriate health care practitioner. Homeopathy is also used alongside conventional medicine and any other form of therapy, and should be seen as ‘complementary’ medicine and not ‘alternative’ medicine.

 

Medical Aid:

In order to open a practice, a registered homeopath must acquire a practice number through the Board of Health Care Funders (BHF), which is the representative organisation for the majority of medical schemes throughout South Africa. Most medical aids will offer reimbursement for consultations and treatment conducted by a registered homeopathic provider [4].

 

Conclusion:

Homoeopathy is an approach that is widely considered to be safe, and when utilised correctly, can be effective for a wide range of conditions. As a primary health care practitioner, a homeopath is able to handle all aspects of general practice and family health care, including diagnostics, case management and referral to other practitioners or medical specialists. A registered homeopath is legally responsible to ensure the adequate treatment of their patients, and is accountable for all clinical decisions and advice. A registered homeopath understands the role of conventional medicine, and will refer to the appropriate specialist in cases that fall outside the legal scope of practice.

Follow this link to listen to a Radio 702 interview with Dr Neil Gower, National Secretary of the Homoeopathic Association of South Africa (HSA). The interview covers homeopaths and homeopathy in the South African context.

In summary, the following facts about homeopaths in South Africa can be made:

  1. Homeopaths are legally allowed to make use of the title of Doctor in South Africa (with AHPCSA registration).
  2. Homeopaths have to have a dispensing license obtained from the Department of health in order to dispense medication.
  3. Homeopaths are registered with medical aids and patients can claim for consults and medication.
  4. Homeopaths are legally allowed to send patients for pathology tests (e.g blood tests, X- rays etc).
  5. Homeopaths are legally allowed to issue sick notes when indicated.
  6. Homeopaths may use 'practitioner only' medicine ranges where the quality is much higher than can be obtained in a health shop, pharmacy etc.
  7. Homeopaths are highly qualified professionals who are specialists in natural medicine.
  8. Homeopaths have to obtain a Masters degree (6 years full time) in order to be registered and practice
  9. Medical Doctors who practice homeopathy must complete a 3 year post graduate degree with the SA Faculty of Homeopathy in order to leglly practice homeopathy), and must also register with the AHPCSA to practice legally. 

 

Acknowledgements:

This information is based on the article entitled 'The Homeopath - A Primary Health Care Practitioner?' written by Dr Kristian Leisegang. This was published in the South African Journal of Natural Medicine in October 2010.

 

References:

1. http://www.dut.ac.za/site/awdep.asp?depnum=22609 [accessed 1 April 2010]

2. http://dutweb.dut.ac.za/handbooks/HEALTH%20Homoeopathy.pdf [accessed 1 April 2010]

3. http://www.uj.ac.za/EN/Faculties/health/departments/homeopathy/coursesandprogrammes/undergraduate/Pages/default.aspx [accessed 1 April 2010]

4. http://www.ahpcsa.co.za/pb_pbhnp_homoeopathy.htm [accessed 6 April 2010]

5. Starfield, B. Is US Health Really the Best in the World? JAMA 2000; 284(4)

6. Null G, Dean C, et al. Death by Medicine. Nutrition Institute of America 2003.

7. http://www4.dr-rath-foundation.org/features/death_by_medicine.html [accessed 7 April 2010]

8. http://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/worldwide-popularity-grows-for-homeopathy-alternative-medicine/ [accessed 7 April 2010]

9. http://liga.iwmh.net/dokumente/upload/556c7_SCIEN_FRA_2009_final_approved.pdf [accessed 7 April 2010]