‘Payment of army doctors must be fixed’

2014-04-30 00:00

AN independent task team of experts led by Professor Malegapuru Makgoba, vice chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has found serious deficiencies in the SA Military Health Service which must be rectified post haste.

The alternative is that more doctors will resign in the wake of the 36 doctors who had recently resigned because of a new overtime payment system.

“And they did not even resign to start their own practices. Many of them now work as state doctors. It is unthinkable that the army pays its doctors less than the civil service,” Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said earlier this week.

She had given the task team only six weeks in which to complete the investigation, in view of the fact that any further delays in the payment of overtime would lead to even more resignations.

The task team presented its report last Friday and she described their findings as “damning”.

She said stemming from the report it was clear that more issues also needed urgent attention. She gave the team time to also compare the medical care available for patients serving on the border and in other countries.

She said she could not understand how the army could have a hospital like 1 Military Hospital in which three brand new theatres could not be used.

This is because of equipment that is not working and new equipment that had been delivered but not properly installed. She said this was part of the embarrassing situation when the defence force could not meet its mandate of caring for former president Nelson Mandela in this hospital.

The minister said it was clear the upgrade that Public Works had done to especially 1 Military Hospital were not up to standard.

She said the private medical sector was meanwhile profiting from the army’s ills.

Sister paper Beeld reported in January on the new overtime system for doctors which was instituted without any negotiation with the doctors.

The new system resulted in doctors only being recompensed for the specific time actually spent with patients, and not for the entire shift. The civil service pays doctors per shift worked, regardless of the number of patients seen.

Mapisa-Nqakula thanked the SA Medical Association for bringing the overtime issue to her attention, saying she would not have known about it otherwise.

She said she decided on an independent task team because the army could not investigate itself.

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