By Nqobile Tshili
A clinical officer at Mpilo Central Hospital has been arrested for allegedly masquerading as a doctor to patients at his private practice in the city centre.
Police arrested Watson Mpala (67) at Mpilo on Thursday after Health Professions Authority (HPA) officials reported him to the police.
Part of the HPA’s mandate is to serve the public interest on health matters.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the professional body was tipped by some nurses about Mpala’s claims to patients that he was a medical doctor.
“The HPA inspectors went to Mpilo Central Hospital after receiving a complaint from the Nurses Council of Zimbabwe that this man was masquerading as a medical doctor. After checking they confirmed that the suspect was not a doctor. Doctors attend to patients, examine and recommend them for operations and other things. This is what HPA officials are alleging. What we can confirm is that he was operating at Mpilo Central Hospital, but we are conducting investigations to establish the period he was doing this,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Mpilo Central Hospital acting chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said his arrest had nothing to do with his duties at the hospital.
“He works as a clinical officer but I think now there was a problem with what he was doing in his private work in town. I understand that he was deregistered for persistently masquerading as a doctor in town. So that has nothing to do with us at Mpilo Central Hospital. It’s about his business in town,” said Prof Ngwenya.
He said the hospital was waiting for the law to take its course as the decision Mpilo will take will be informed by the outcome of the investigation.
Prof Ngwenya said in the event that Mpilo gets official communication on Mpala’s deregistration, he would not be eligible to continue working at the health institution.
Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) president Dr. Francis Chiwora said clinical officers are just nurses who conduct advanced courses enabling them to conduct minor operations.
He said even when they conduct operations they have to be under the watchful eye of a qualified doctor.
“So, a clinical officer is just a nurse who does advanced courses going through various departments and learning more skills. It’s a bridge between a doctor who has gone through the mill and university as all the work they do has to be done under the supervision of a doctor. They are not allowed to work independently. So, they cannot call themselves doctors because they are not doctors,” he said.
Dr. Chiwora said clinical officers are not allowed to open private practices because private practice consultations are for doctors.
“They can open nursing homes where they can admit patients for nursing care and these patients are referred to them by doctors. They can’t do the clinical diagnosis and treatment care as that is for doctors,” said Dr. Chiwora. The Chronicle