Every day South Africans in dire need of medical care suffer because they are not getting the help they need. So imagine hearing that more than 800 qualified doctors are sitting at home because the government says there is no money to hire them. Health For Mzansi spoke to some of these unemployed doctors.
Dr Carnetia Baloyi from Johannesburg, who has recently completed her community service, remains unemployed and states her frustrations with the difficulty of the situation they are facing as qualified medical officers.
“It takes a toll on our colleagues as well; they are understaffed and overworked, and they deal with cases that need a lot of concentration because it’s a job that deals with people’s lives. We should be employed to reduce the pressure. It’s also hard for the patients to be waiting in long lines for their turn.”
‘I’ve applied everywhere without luck’
Dr Mandla Matshabe from Mpumalanga, who also recently completed his community service, says it’s difficult to be among the unemployed doctors and says he has tried to apply everywhere he could.
“I’ve applied for every advertised post in the government gazette and in the private sector. The ratio of doctor-patient was already appalling, at 0.31 Dr for every 1 000 patients.
“There’s burnout for the employed doctors and high-stress levels for the unemployed doctors, leading to depression, among other conditions. It also leads to the emigration of doctors to the private sector or abroad. And the list goes on and on. The government must try to employ all doctors; it’s not like we have enough as a country; even when the 1200+ get employed, we will still have a shortage.”
The South African Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) has emphasised the unemployment of skilled medical officers after community service as a growing crisis in healthcare.
“Annually, the department cites budget constraints as a barrier to hiring qualified medical doctors, yet no substantial measures are evident to solve the funding dilemma. This contributes immensely to the web of factors that prompt the continuous emigration of qualified doctors from the country,” reads a statement by Samatu.
‘We need them on the ground’
Currently employed as a medical doctor, Dr Sipesihle Mgoduka from the Eastern Cape underlines that the current issue of the unemployment of more than 800 grade 1 medical officers who just completed their community service, is taking a toll on the employed doctors as well.
“The government is saying there are no funds to hire them, even though we need them on the ground, and we continue to suffer and work strange hours, especially in rural hospitals.
“It’s not like there is no money, but the budget should be redirected to basic needs, like the fact that there is no one other than doctors who can work overtime of 130 hours.
“This issue has manifested into an epidemic for the healthcare fraternity, adversely impacting the delivery of quality healthcare services to the nation. South Africans travel long distances and stand in excessively long queues to receive basic healthcare services, while qualified medical practitioners are sitting at home.”
Doctors needed to make NHI work
Speaking on a television channel, Dr Cedric Sihlangu, the general secretary of the South African Medical Association Trade Union, says how strange it is that a government intending to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) is failing to absorb and appoint the critical staff who would be vital in giving the health services that will desperately be needed.
“You can’t, on the one hand, be pushing aggressively for a system that will require hands on deck and then, in the very same breath, say, ‘Look, we don’t have money to hire the people who will make the system work’,” he said.
Meanwhile, health department spokesperson Foster Mohale says the department has been made aware of several unemployed doctors post-community service and it assures that the national department of health is working with provinces to address the issue.
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