Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'Angry' doctors to march

It puzzles me why some countries treat their health care personnel as filth.

With all respect, I know our population is poor, but proper basic health care is a human right.

Doctors don't have to earn a zillion dollars, I know many of them, normal people with kids and a small car, leading a sober life.

Pushing them in to poverty is a disgrace to us all.

The Department of Health really did its best to get doctors angry like this. And I can promise you, to get these people on the street is really, really difficult.

But if the politician needs a new liver because of excessive drinking, like our previous Minister of Health Manto, the story changes: single room in a private hospital, pushed in front of the row for an operation, ...need some flowers in the room?...

We should be more vocal on what we believe is right or wrong.

'Angry' doctors to march

Johannesburg - Many patients will be left unattended on Friday as doctors are expected to march in Pretoria to show their dissatisfaction over various issues in the health sector.

"Doctors are angry and have legitimate grievances," said SA Medical Association (Sama) spokesperson Phophi Ramasteba on Monday.

Ramatseba said all doctors had been notified - even those that had moved to a new body still waiting to be legally recognised, the United Doctor's Forum.

"The issues raised affect every single doctor. This is not about the differences or personalities."

While the main focus would be on the delays in the implementation of the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) and the "insultingly" low offers by government so far, Ramasteba said the association planned to voice its concerns over other issues.

Other issues

These included the Reference Price List (RPL) which acted as a benchmark for private sector doctor fees, and the recently gazetted dispensing mark-up regulations which had been rejected by dispensing doctors, said Ramatseba.

Sama would plan further strike action, should its demands not be met.

Sama has demanded at least a 50% salary increase which the doctor's forum has upped to 70%. The forum's spokesperson Ratitse Malatji said this was how much doctors were underpaid.

Other issues the doctors raised, which led to a strike last month and the recent lunch-time pickets, was the deterioration in academic facilities, inadequate numbers of doctors being trained, the poor working conditions and the "atrocious" conditions patients seeking medical attention in public facilities had to deal with.

Negotiations between the association, government and the forum representing the doctors collapsed earlier this month after the forum, representing disgruntled doctors, staged a walk out at the bargaining council due to "irreconcilable differences".

New body

Malatji said doctors wanted a new body as they did not trust the association, which no longer represented the interests of the doctors.

Asked whether or not they would take part in the march, Malatji replied: "That will be determined by our members. No one has clarity about details of Friday's march.

"We haven't been contacted about it (the march) but there was a rumour to that effect."

Out of its 7 629 doctors registered with Sama, no one had terminated their membership, said Ramasteba

"None of our members have resigned membership so we expect them to join although we have not yet met with them about the strike"

However, this was disputed by Malatji who said a number of doctors had written letters to Sama.

"Sama's response was that their memberships will be terminated after May 29," he said.

Meanwhile, admitting the health department's woes, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday expressed his commitment to address the many problems faced by the public health system.

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