New doctors’ strike looms

2010-04-02 08:50

There are growing fears that public health sector doctors may

embark on renewed countrywide strike action to highlight problems with the

controversial implementation of a government strategy meant to retain expertise

in the public sector.


The strike could go ahead if problems with salary structures and

payments included in the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) are not resolved

“soon”, according to Dr Phophi Ramathuba, chairperson of the Public Sector

Doctor Committee.


Also angering doctors is the fact that negotiations the government

undertook to hold to resolve the issue of medics who were “short changed” when

the OSD was implemented have not begun.


The talks were due to be held during February and implemented on

April 1, she said, adding that many doctors remained “disgruntled” with

government’s failure to address their grievances.


“This is damaging as the majority of doctors running rural

hospitals, and who have 20 years of experience, have not received an increment

yet. OSD is just a mess as government is to blame because as the employer they

taking (sic) their time to pay doctors,” said Ramathuba.


The government’s tardiness in resolving the problem was

“demoralising” with as many as five public health service doctors resigning each

week to work in the private sector.


A Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council

(PHSDSBC) resolution last year provided a three phase framework for the

implementation of the OSD.


Included in the agreement was ensuring that doctors were placed

within their correct salary bands, but this has only partially been implemented

and doctors in some areas are still waiting to be regraded.


It was also agreed that doctors would receive a one off payment of

5% of their annual salary as compensation for the delay in bringing in the OSD,

this has also not been fully implemented.


Ramathuba said failure to address the problem of doctors who were

excluded in the OSD was likely to lead to a repeat of last year’s protests,

which saw hundreds of doctors picketing outside their places of work during

lunch hours.


Dr Norman Mabasa, chairperson of the South African Medical

Association (Sama) said strike action was likely if non-association members in

the public sector regrouped and acted about their continued dissatisfaction. The

delayed renegotiations to resolve problems could also lead to strike action, he

said.


Lwazi Manzi, medical officer at Cape Town’s GF Jooste Hospital,

said while the Western Cape was less militant than other provinces, some doctors

are “very upset”.


Medical officers and junior consultants working permanently within

the public system were still being short changed by the OSD, she said.


“OSD is just a cost saving exercise for the state as other health

professionals received good packages compared to MOs (medical officers).”


“The country will face huge problems because, after serving their

two years of community services, MOs are rather choosing to go work on cruise

ships than stay here,” Manzi said. “It’s very concerning because there won’t be

experienced or trained doctors in the system.”


Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council

acting general secretary Theko Dlomo said the issue would be dealt with at an

executive committee meeting on April 13, which would be preceded by “interacting

with members from the relevant structure.”


National Department of Health spokesperson, Fidel Hadebe, failed to

respond to questions sent by email on Monday.

He also failed to respond to an

SMS requesting comment and his phone remained on voice mail.

 

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