Budget too little to hire junior doctors – Phaahla

Henry

The minister of health, Dr. Joe Phaahla, attributed the high unemployment rates among junior doctors in South Africa to budgetary challenges.

Currently, 645 qualified doctors are still out of work after completing their community service year in December.

Phaahla addressed the media on Monday following growing public outcry over the plight of junior doctors who simply cannot find work, nor have the money to open their own practices or emigrate. This in a country where state hospitals have serious shortages of human resources and patients sometimes wait hours for treatment.

According to the minister, the belts of provincial budgets are being cut even thinner, which makes it difficult to allocate money for new jobs. He says community service doctors additionally earn R1.2 million a year, which includes overtime, and cannot necessarily be re-employed at these salaries.

Phaahla says employment has nevertheless improved, with 564 positions filled since October last year.

“The trend over the past five years shows an annual increase in the employment of medical doctors.

“These increases over these years have happened despite the funding constraints. I will be the first to admit that these numbers are inadequate when considering the huge health needs in the country.

“However, the emergency situation is no different for other health professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, oral hygienists, speech therapists and audiologists and the like.”

Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Free State are also currently advertising positions, although Limpopo is experiencing challenges due to a court dispute between the provincial health department and the South African Medical Association trade union (Samatu).

The health department in Limpopo wanted to create more jobs by reorganizing overtime work, but this is opposed by the trade union.

Posts will apparently only be advertised again in this province after the court case has been settled.

However, Phaahla says that junior doctors are not automatically guaranteed employment after completing their community service year. He also suggested that doctors who do not manage in the public sector should turn to the private sector.

“Junior doctors are like any other professional, and like these people must also compete for work.”

Phaahla says the department is considering different possibilities – including the review of the current dispensation for the employment of doctors and medical specialists – to see if the current budget can be reallocated to hire more health workers in the public health facilities.

Trade union not beimpression

However, Samatu is not impressed with the department’s plans – or at least the lack of plans.

The trade union said in response to Phaahla’s speech on Tuesday that there is a substantial lack of action and strategic solutions.

“It is a sobering reality that the same problems crop up year after year without meaningful intervention or progress. The minister’s recognition of these challenges, without presenting a workable framework on how they can be solved, is indicative of the department’s powerful efforts,” said Dr. Cedric Sihlangu, Samatu’s secretary general, said.

“This raises serious concerns about the department’s commitment to our healthcare practitioners and to the health of our nation.”

Samatu says the department’s suggestion that some of the affected doctors, as they are “independent”, should consider looking for work in the private sector, is a slap in the face to these doctors and other dedicated professionals who diligently work in the public sector. sector serves – often under extremely challenging circumstances.

“As a trade union, we find this proposal completely unacceptable and short-sighted, especially considering the great inequalities and the limited scope of private health care facilities right across the country,” says Sihlangu.

“What is more disturbing is that our leaders, whose benefits grant them access to advanced private medical care, do not understand the urgency of these issues. Such an attitude only widens the gap between the government and the hard-working medical professionals on the ground.”

Samatu is now demanding a dedicated task force to focus on the immediate employment of unemployed doctors.

The union also calls for inclusive dialogue that actively involves medical professionals in decision-making processes.