Unemployed doctors in KwaZulu-Natal took part in a peaceful march to the provincial health department offices on Monday, 12 February. The march was organised to draw attention to the concerns of over 800 unemployed medical graduates and to demand job opportunities.
In a joint statement by the unemployed doctors that was served to the KwaZulu-Natal department of health officers during the protest, the doctors argue that their situation reflects a failure on the part of the government to adequately plan for healthcare professionals and patients in the country.
‘Hire us today’
They believe that the government should take responsibility for providing job opportunities for medical graduates and addressing the shortage of healthcare professionals in the sector.
“The past few weeks have been disheartening, to say the least. The government has been driving a narrative that there are posts that are available in rural hospitals, and as doctors, we supposedly opt to reject them,” reads the statement.
“Shockingly, the government would stoop as low as developing and disseminating propaganda against its citizens against its public servants. We come to you today, with every intention to serve our people, show us those posts, and hire us today.”
Health minister Joe Phaahla, who recently addressed the issue of unemployed medical doctors, stated that it is the wish of the government, especially the department of health, to employ as many health professionals as possible to play a meaningful role in the public health system of the country.
Phaahla emphasised the following points:
- Doctors would need to apply like any other person wishing to join the public service.
- Looking at a review of the current dispensation for the employment of doctors, especially medical officers and specialists.
- Check if there are areas where existing monies can be reassigned to enable the employment of more health professionals in public health facilities.
“An increase in the number of those employed will benefit even those already in employment by reducing their workloads. These are just some of the efforts we are initiating while we continue to appeal to the minister of finance to assist with better budget allocations,” Phaahla said.
The unemployed doctors also underlined the following issues to be addressed in their statement:
- We want shift work to be abolished, effective immediately.
- Secondly, these budget cuts are undoubtedly counteractive to the envisioned national development plan. A budget cut for healthcare directly translates to lowering the nation’s life expectancy. We, therefore, are making a call that there should be no budget cuts for the healthcare system.
- Bursary holders, Cuban-trained doctors, and doctors with MO contracts should not be released from their contracts. Not when it costs them employment.
- We also want to reaffirm our solidarity with our colleagues in the healthcare sector. Equally; nurses, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, and allied healthcare professionals should be offered permanent employment, attached with the benefits of permanent staff.
- With the development of the primary health care system through district health services in mind, we call for the mobilisation of adequate resources, such as medicine and vaccines, in rural areas. No doctor must work without adequate and correct tools.
- We want the promised annual salary increase and retrospective payment from the years preceding.
- Review the hiring process: it should be done with an independent hiring team, and HR processes must be sped up to allow a reduction in waiting times for patients in hospitals.
Seeking sustainable solutions
The doctors said they expect action to be taken and want to hear from the KZN department of health within the next 14 days.
“All solutions that will be brought to the fore must be sustainable and proactive. The current students, interns, and community service healthcare workers should not have to fight this battle again in the next years.
“We will also be submitting to Samatu that they collaborate with other trade unions for healthcare workers and establish a database for all the incumbent community service healthcare workers. This should be done by April 2024.”
Today, on Tuesday, 13 February, unemployed doctors embark on another march in the Eastern Cape to voice their concerns and bring attention to the issue at the premier’s office in Bhisho.
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