Doctors back at work in most provinces

The doctors’ strike flared up in Gauteng and Limpopo on Friday even as it was called off in most other provinces.

The South African Medical Association (Sama) said it had sent an executive committee member to Limpopo after learning that doctors there were threatening to down tools.

Doctors at the Natalspruit Hospital on Gauteng’s East Rand were also threatening strike action.

“We don’t know what caused this flare-up, it’s going against what is happening in the rest of the country.

“Members of the executive committee have been sent to contain the situation,” said Sama executive committee member Dr Norman Mabasa.

Doctors in the Eastern Cape all reported for duty on Friday, said provincial spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

Free State health spokesperson Jabu Mbalula said there were no reported cases of doctors striking in the province, adding that very few doctors participated in the industrial action sparked last week.

KwaZulu-Natal doctors agreed to go back to work on Thursday during a meeting with labour and the government and kept their word by reporting for duty on Friday.

Public relations officers for Durban’s three big hospitals reported all their doctors had returned to work.

Addington, Prince Mshiyeni Memorial and King Edward VIII were hardest hit by the doctors’ strike as they had to turn away patients.

Provincial health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Friday morning called for the return to work of all striking doctors, including 276 doctors fired then reinstated over the strike.

Western Cape doctors followed suit and agreed to call off their strike and go back to work on Friday, but were still unhappy with the government’s pay offer.

Mabasa said the debate around the latest pay package put on the table by government still raged as unions presented it to their constituencies.

According to the union’s Western Cape chairperson Mark Sonderup there were two meetings on Friday in Cape Town, at Tygerberg Hospital and Groote Schuur.

At both meetings, doctors were asked to indicate by a show of hands how they felt about the wage offer.

“The sentiment is overwhelmingly in favour of rejecting the offer on the table,” Sonderup said.

However, in terms of bargaining processes, they still had to vote in secret on the proposals, so a national Sama position could be established.

If the offer was rejected, the doctors would like to see a process of mediation and arbitration.

The African National Congress and its alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, welcomed the doctors’ decision to resume their duties.—Sapa

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