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Can Your Doctor Charge You for Cancelling Your Appointment?

29.11.2018
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This year, Legalese was approach by a client, a large medical practice, to clarify whether it was allowed to charge patients their appointment fee, if patients didn’t show at all for appointments, or ran late.

The regulatory authority responsible for these matter is the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa). At the time of research, the HPCSA’s stance on this matter was contradictory: the ethical rules disallowed charging any fees, whilst the Consumer Protection Act and Medical and Dental Professions Board rules acknowledged that some cancellation/late fee was allowed to be levied. We attempted to clarify the exact HPCSA position to ensure that our client was legally compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.

After approaching the HPCSA for clarity and receiving the contradictory stance above, we approached SAMA (South African Medical Association) for its position on the issue, which responded with an acknowledgement that the issue was wide-spread, and need a final, public determination and clarification. Following this, SAMA pursued the issue the HPCSA, obliging HPCSA to finally issue a public, non-contradictory position on no shows appointments and late arrivals.

As a result of this work, the HPCSA have publicly clarified its position as follows:

A patient reserves the right to cancel a medical or dental appointment, and a medical or dental practitioner may not charge a consultation fee or a procedure fee for such a cancelled appointment unless:

    • A cancellation was made less than 24 hours for a specialist appointment and less than 2 hours for a general practitioner appointment, before the appointment time.
    • A practitioner can provide evidence of failure to find an alternative patient between the time of receiving the cancellation notice and the time of the cancelled appointment.
    • The practitioner can provide sufficient proof that the patient was informed about the cancellation of appointments policy.
    • The practitioner has first established the reasons for the patient’s failure to cancel or honour the appointment.

The HPCSA advises that practitioners who have a cancellation or no-show policy to inform their patients at the time of booking that there will be charges incurred for failing to arrive for an appointment.

Find the full statement here.

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