Homeopaths in South Africa
Homeopaths in South Africa are healthcare professionals who diagnose, treat and manage patients with homeopathic medicines. South African homeopaths are also allowed to prescribe herbal medicines and utilise clinical nutrition in the treatment and management process. These modalities do not simply include over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic and herbal remedies or nutritional supplements. In South Africa, a homeopath is allowed to compound and dispense homeopathic and herbal medicines and is licensed to do so by the Department of Health. It is these medicines that many medical aids pay for whereas OTC preparations may not be covered.
Are homeopaths medical doctors?
South African homeopaths carry the Dr title. Although most are not medical doctors, homeopaths in this country undergo medical training prior to their homeopathic education. The differentiation from a medical doctor (M.D.) is clearly illustrated by the words ‘homeopath’, ‘registered homeopath’ or ‘homeopathic practitioner’ following their professional name. However, there are also homeopathic education programs for medical doctors who wish to practise homeopathy. Therefore some homeopaths are medical doctors or specialists with homeopathic training. The term ‘homeopathic doctor’ is sometimes used by both homeopaths and medical doctors with homeopathic training.
What qualifications do homeopaths have?
Homeopaths in South Africa are required to have a Master’s Degree in Technology: Homeopathy to practise in the country. It is a 6 year full time programme offered through the University of Johannesburg and Durban University of Technology. Some homeopaths who were practising prior to the commencement of these education programs may have alternative educational training which is currently still recognised in South Africa.
The first 3 years of the current homeopathic training program is focused on the medical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology (allopathic drugs) with formal homeopathic education commencing in the third year of studies. A part time internship is done in the fifth year and continued into the sixth year, along with a community service program.
In order to complete the qualification, all homeopaths are required to conduct a research study and publish a dissertation as part of the Masters program. Homeopaths are also required to complete the Compounding And Dispensing Certificate For Homeopaths through the University of Pretoria (UP) in order to store, mix and dispense homeopathic and herbal medicines. Those homeopaths who do not complete this certificate or opt not to dispense can then prescribe the required medication through homeopathic pharmacies in South Africa.
Who regulates South African homeopaths?
The practise of homeopathy in South Africa is regulated by the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA). It is the only regulatory body for homeopaths in South Africa as mandated by the Department of Health according to the Allied Health Professions Act, 63 of 1982. Any person practising homeopathy without being registered with the AHPCSA is doing so illegally and can be liable for prosecution. The authority of foreign homeopathic regulatory bodies on its own are not recognised in South Africa without AHPCSA registration. Some homeopaths are also member of the Homeopathic Association of South Africa (HSA) which is a voluntary membership of a professional association.
Although there is a clear distinction in the education and regulation of homeopathic practice in South Africa, there are many “practitioners” claiming to be homeopaths in South Africa. Many do not have any formal education or have done courses in complementary medicine that is not recognised in South Africa. These individuals are committing a criminal act by practising homeopathy in terms of diagnosing and treating patients as well as dispensing homeopathic medicines or herbal medicines. They do not have AHPCSA registration numbers to practise homeopathy and should be reported to the AHPCSA.
Do medical aids pay homeopaths?
Yes, most medical aids in South Africa pay homeopaths for consultations and medicines. However, the majority of South African homeopaths are not contracted into medical aids. Instead patients are required to pay for homeopathic consultations and medicines in cash and are then reimbursed by the scheme. A homeopath has a practice number (PR No.) which is necessary when claiming from a medical aid. Furthermore there are specific tariff codes for homeopathic consultations and medicines which a medical aid requires in order to process the statement from a homeopath.
Apart from chiropractors in South Africa, very few other complementary health disciplines have been given this level of recognition by medical schemes. However, some schemes or plans will not pay for homeopathic or herbal medicines which is the prerogative of the medical aid member. Homeopaths cannot be held liable for non-payment if a patient’s medical aid does not reimburse them for consultations and medication. It is therefore important for patient to clarify with their medical aid as to whether the homeopathic consultation and medicines will be paid for by the scheme.