For doctors in the public health sector to provide adequate service delivery, you need a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1000. However, Mzansi’s doctors are having to deal with over three times the amount of patients. This according to chairperson of the South African Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) chairperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Sibahle Khumalo.
Khumalo was speaking to eNCA during a march to the KwaZulu-Natal premier’s office on Thursday morning.
“Currently our doctor to patient ratio is 1:3198 which means the average employed doctor in the public sector is seeing three times the normal. That means that there is no way you can provide quality healthcare when you are basically working at three times the limit,” she said.
Student doctors in crisis
The medical professionals said the government has a moral obligation to hire student doctors after their training.
Samatu believes that the state should utilise the scarcity of doctors in the country and lack of resources in hospitals as motivation to employ more doctors. It, however, believes that the state is turning a blind eye to this issue whilst worsening it with the serious mismanagement of funds, including the towering level of corruption within the public services.
“Employ the doctors to make sure that we improve the quality of care that we provide to our communities, not only that but that the burden of unemployed doctors does not sit solely on the employer,” said Khumalo.
“As we know basic healthcare is a human right in South Africa but as actual service providers and the foot soldiers of the department of health, we find ourselves in a situation where there is simply not enough of us to render quality healthcare to our community.”
‘Engagement is fruitless’
She said though the union had engaged the national department of health, the efforts had yielded no positive results.
“We have been in discussion with the national department of health. We have presented them with a list of over 400 doctors that are looking to be employed in the department of health in the public sector currently in order to ease the burden of this short staffing, but we have not been met with any positive responses. Currently the list is sitting at over 1 000 doctors that are all seeking employment.”
Samatu maintains that the state has the responsibility to ensure that there is adequate staffing across all healthcare facilities to protect both communities and healthcare professionals.
In a statement, the union said, “Healthcare professionals are exposed to high risk of burnout and medical negligence litigations as a result of being overloaded with work.”
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