Battle won, but war rages on at hospital

2013-05-12 14:01

Specialists and management clash over overtime, private work.

Specialists at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital scored a victory this week when administrators agreed to fork out the overtime pay that’s been at the centre of a bitter battle.

But despite being promised disputed overtime pay for the months of March and April, the specialists are far from happy.

They are strenuously objecting to the hospital’s newly crafted overtime pay structures, and management is scrambling to try and prevent an exodus.

Overtime pay and permission for specialists – who are employed by the Gauteng department of health to do private work – are at the centre of the dispute.

Management is trying to keep specialists working their full rosters at the hospital rather than stepping out to work in private practice.

Junior doctors and registrars have complained bitterly that specialists prioritise their more lucrative private work during their hospital shifts.

The hospital and the department of health’s attempts to crack down on these problems has enraged specialists.

In the past two-and-a-half months, 12 anaesthetists and a plastic surgeon have resigned.

This week, City Press has learnt that most of the hospital’s specialist gynaecologists have threatened to quit as well.

But according to specialists, hospital administrators and sources within the doctors’ union Sama, hospital management panicked and promised to pay the gynaecologists the disputed overtime for March and April to prevent a walkout.

Nobody is prepared to speak on the record, fearing vicimisation amid soaring tensions in the hospital’s administrative offices.

In a bid to prevent further resignations, an urgent meeting was convened by the hospital’s administrators with Sama.

A source who was present at the meeting, and asked not to be named, said emotions ran high.

Sama representatives, the source said, demanded an explanation about management’s decision to dock overtime pay without any discussion.

The source said: “Management argued that it did communicate the overtime changes (see box) to the heads of the department and they should have relayed the message to specialists within their units.

“It also explained that some of the overtime claims were not filled out correctly and payment could not be approved.

“After a long debate, management gave in, saying it will pay specialists what is due to them provided claims are filled out correctly.”

Sama’s Gauteng chairperson, Kalli Spencer, confirmed this. But he refused to share other details from

the heated meeting, referring further questions to Charlotte Maxeke’s management team.

The battle about overtime seems to be just one flashpoint in an ongoing power struggle at the hospital.

Specialists share one common enemy: the deeply unpopular clinical director, Dr Mamorena Mofokeng.

Multiple sources at the hospital have accused Mofokeng – who was not available for comment this week – of disrespecting doctors and taking decisions without consultation.

A senior specialist at Charlotte Maxeke, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, said Mofokeng did not respect anyone.

“When we ask her about decisions that concern our livelihood she tells us the door is open if we want to leave.

“I have had enough of being humiliated by her and I know that many of my colleagues feel the same,” the specialist said.

“If management doesn’t wake up now and realise that she is driving out some of the most dedicated and talented doctors this hospital has ever had, I shudder to think what will happen in the next few months.”

Another angry specialist echoed these sentiments.

“Unless Dr Mofokeng is put in her place, specialists will continue to leave in numbers and patients will suffer because there will be nobody left to supervise registrars (trainee specialists),” the second specialist said.

City Press has reliably learnt that hospital CEO Gladys Bogoshi recently summoned Mofokeng to her office to discuss specialists’ complaints.

Bogoshi could not be reached for comment this week.

Gauteng health department spokesperson Simon Zwane said the department was “aware of allegations that Mofokeng is not speaking to doctors in an appropriate manner and management is looking into it”.

Zwane further said: “The department doesn’t condone such behaviour. Every person working at Charlotte Maxeke deserves to be treated with respect and dignity,” Zwane said.

He refused to comment on the outcome of the meeting between Bogoshi and Mofokeng, saying he was not aware of the discussion.

Overtime options

Overtime options for specialists at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital:

»?Work no overtime at all

»?Work four to eight hours

of overtime per week

»?Work between 9 and 12 hours of overtime per week

»?Work between 13 and 20 hours of overtime per week

»?Work more than 20 hours

of overtime per month

Source: Gauteng department of health

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