This blog was co-authored by: Rethabile Shabalala, Associate Designate

Ksenia Kholina brought a successful application here, to oblige the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to set a date for an examination to enable her to practise as a dentist.  Ksenia was born in Russia but, with her family, relocated to South Africa in 1994. Ksenia comes from a family of medical professionals and her passion lay in dentistry.  She furthered her studies in Russia and was awarded a Specialist Degree Diploma of Doctor of Dental Medicine and a Russian Federation Specialist Accreditation Certificate thus qualifying her to practice dentistry in Russia.

Her plight with the first respondent followed on her return to South Africa as she wished to join the medical industry and practise her trade in this country. Her accreditations were not in dispute and the HPCSA accepted her qualifications. She was however required, in accordance with the regulations, to pass the necessary examinations for Foreign Qualified Medical Practitioners prior to her being permitted to register as a dental practitioner in South Africa.

What ensued was a long process which ultimately delayed her progress for over 5 years. Ksenia successfully passed Part 1 and 2 of the examinations however she was informed that she had to re-write Part 3 thereof.  From 17 July 2019 to 20 February 2020 the HPCSA failed to confirm dates for her examination.  In March 2020 the first respondent informed her that no examinations would be conducted during the lockdown period.

The HPSA’s conduct had significantly delayed Ksenia’s career.  The court was utterly disappointed in the manner in which the first respondent conducted itself.  Stating that:

“The prejudice suffered by the applicant in the hands of a professional body founded in the constitution is despicable. It is common cause that South Africa has a shortage of medical practitioners. Here we have a young dentist eager to contribute her hard earned skills; sadly, the body tasked to assist her to ply her trade is nonchalant. One is left wondering whether the first respondent is fit for purpose”

The court pointed out that the HPCSA’s decision to not hold examinations was unjustified. He stated that “Even if one takes into account the instabilities brought about by the pandemic, there is no regulatory provision prohibiting the first respondent from setting a date for the Examination. Life goes on within the set parameters in relation to the State of National Disaster guidelines in the country.”

Accordingly, the first respondent was ordered to set a date for the undertaking of Part 3 of the requisite examination for Foreign Qualified Medical Practitioners, within 30 (thirty) days of the Order being granted.