Doctors picket 'spontaneous'

The Health Department described the picketing action at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg on Monday as “spontaneous”, saying there were no reports of other pickets countrywide.

“There was no indication that doctors were picketing in other provinces. This is spontaneous, their intention was to do so countrywide, but the action itself has not reached that point,” spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.

Doctors at the hospital started their lunchtime picket over government’s offer tabled at the bargaining council.

This is two days after intern doctors at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital started picketing over the same issue.

“Their offer was a seven or eight percent offer instead of the 50% which we deserve,” one of the doctors at the Helen Joseph Hospital, Claudia de Waal, said.

“We are the ones who have to work under terrible conditions and taking no tea times, working 30 hours because of so many patients that need our attention ... we can’t leave them.”

The picketing action is despite the fact that negotiations between the government and the South African Medical Association (Sama) are
still under way over the implementation of the occupation specific dispensation (OSD) and the remuneration of doctors in the public sector.

De Waal he said some patients would be affected during the picketing hour, between 12.30pm to 1.30pm, as the clinic would be closed.

“We are only leaving emergency staff during this time.
Patients who have to be attended to will have to wait until after our lunchtime picketing.”

Hadebe said the bargaining council would reconvene on Tuesday, adding that the pickets should not create a false impression that negotiations had deadlocked or that the department was not involved.

Last month, doctors resumed work after embarking on a three-week strike over the OSD, which led to the Health Department issuing letters of dismissal.

The letters were replaced with final written warnings after an agreement was reached between all sides, which saw doctors agree to recommit themselves to the negotiation process and return to work.

Some doctors claimed that they received a monthly salary of R8 000.

However, the Health Department in the Eastern Cape, one of the provinces that has not yet experienced any strike actions or picketing over the OSD said, this was not true.

“Some doctors who speak to the media are misleading the public. In the Eastern Cape, they get a net salary of over R20 000 including allowances and they get a committed overtime of more than R5 000 on top of that,” Sizwe Kupelo said.

Kupelo said it was important that doctors work with government in the implementation of the OSD.

“Doctors need to remember and appreciate that we spent taxpayers’ money sending some of them to medical schools in Cuba and so on.”

Last year alone, the government spent R96-million assisting health professionals, money which Kupelo said doctors were not expected to pay back.

He said government’s interventions were not being appreciated, adding that it was “not all that gloom”, considering some of the allowances doctors were getting.

“We are trying to turn the situation around.”

However, De Waal said not every doctor received all those allowances.

“It depends who you are. For instance, I don’t get the skills allowance and other allowances,” she said.—Sapa

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