Department of Health slams striking doctors

The Department of Health says striking doctors owe the nation an explanation for their conduct.

Health Department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe told the Mail & Guardian Online on Friday: “The national Department of Health notes the ongoing illegal and unprotected strike action by some doctors with great concern. How do they justify abandoning patients and in the process exposing them to extreme dangers?”

The strike, which started on Thursday last week, has led to the death of a patient in the North West, and patients are currently being redirected to hospitals where doctors are not striking to prevent any further fatalities.

Spokesperson for the striking doctors’, Rapitse Malatji, said that an increasing number of doctors from different hospitals are still joining the strike.

“Doctors are joining the strike every 30 minutes. They are demanding an occupation specific dispensation (OCD) to be implemented immediately. They want their salaries to be on par with international and national professional structure,” explains Malatji.

They also demand the implementation of OCD to be back-dated from July 1 2008—when it was supposed to be implemented, that all vacant posts be filled immediately, a safe working environment, and to be remunerated for overtime owed to them.

Malatji said more than 400 doctors had been dismissed by the Department of Health.

“Around 370 doctors—including professors and interns from George Mukhari hospital [in Pretoria]—were dismissed after they were asked to return to work and face a disciplinary hearing. The doctors felt that if they were facing disciplinary hearings, it was best for them to not go back at all.”

Malatji said another 50 doctors were dismissed from Mafikeng hospital. “We suspect there will be more dismissals,” he added.

“We have been expressing our grievances to the department but they have not been met.”

Malatji said the doctors had sent a letter to the department on April 16 listing their grievances.

“The following day the department responded to Sama [South African Medical Association], confirming they received the letter and they acknowledged our problems, and said that things have been slow.”

Malatji said they do not believe Sama represents their needs, which is why they have taken in it upon themselves to act. The disgruntled doctors who make up the United Doctors Forum are currently in a meeting where they will put together a proposal to present to the government and discuss the way forward.

Hadebe said the Department of Health was also currently locked in a meeting with the bargaining chamber.

At the meeting they will present a set of proposals for consideration by labour representatives, who will then go back to their constituencies for further consideration and mandate.

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