Doctors from public hospitals on Friday decided to revoke their strike action that had been in place since Thursday at 15:00 when they could not hand over a memorandum of grievances to Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba.
A meeting was expected to be held late yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon between doctors belonging to the South African Medical Association (Sama), Ramathuba and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) to discuss health issues and working conditions of doctors in the public health sector following a protest march last week.
The protesting doctors only handled emergency cases, maternity-related cases and emergency operations and threatened a full-blown strike should their grievances not be addressed by Ramathuba.
Gerald Twala, Cosatu Provincial Secretary on Friday addressed the estimated 120 doctors who gathered at departmental headquarters. Twala said the union helped with preparations for the march but could not participate on Thursday as they were occupied elsewhere.
“Health and Education has not done well for many years now and Cosatu has called on the cabinet to step in,” he said. He called for summits to be held in both departments as a matter of urgency. “Doctors don’t just one morning wake up, deciding to march. Their struggles have come a long way.
He assured doctors that Cosatu supported their demands.
Several issues pertaining to work conditions, overtime payment and working long hours, the shortage of essential medicine and consumable goods, non-functioning high care facilities at hospitals and enough skilled paramedics were addressed in the memorandum handed over to Ramathuba.
The doctors also demanded that critical vacancies “to ensure dignified and quality service to patients” be filled. Working in the private sector for remuneration (RWOPS) was also addressed and the doctors demanded that a policy be set in place. They also demanded that for every foreign doctor employed one local person must be sent to university to study medicine. Review of bursaries and procedures were among the demands.
They requested a formal written answer to the memorandum from the MEC before 24 March at 16:30 or they would down tools.
Ramathuba during a press conference following the handing over of the memorandum the next day said the doctors did have genuine demands and there was a sense of impatience, but the department was busy with a turn-around strategy and many of their problems were being addressed. She reiterated that she was not unwilling to meet the group and receive the memorandum, but that she was unavailable the previous day. RWOPS was an issue where the policy was decided upon by the national department and a policy was expected to come through within the next two weeks. “We must guard against the abuse of RWOPS,” she said. “Some medical aid claims are not paid out to doctors in the public service as they are seeing patients in the time they are supposed to be at work.”
She said should she be contacted regarding a shortage of essential medication or broken equipment, she will intervene immediately, as systems were put in place to help address these issues.
Story: NELIE ERASMUS
Featured photo: The sentiments of some of the doctors show clearly in the placard.