E.C doctors protest over unpaid wages

By Drum Digital
29 May 2012

Eastern Cape doctors protested on Tuesday because the provincial health department has failed to pay their salaries for almost six months, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) said.

The picket, held at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, was led by the SA Medical Association (Sama), said Numsa provincial spokesman Phumzile Nodongwe.

Numsa supported the protest because it threatened the quality of healthcare for the poor.

"In as much as doctors should provide service to poor patients and the elderly, it would be unfair to expect them to execute their duties with perfection without being paid for almost six months."

The union called on Sama to strike if the matter was not rectified.

Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the department was working to resolve the technical difficulties that caused the delay in wage payments.

Of the 7000 staff affected, 4000 would receive their salaries on Thursday after payments were processed on Monday night. The remaining 3000 would be paid soon, with the department working overtime to speed up the process.

"The majority are volunteer community health workers who are entitled to a R1500 monthly stipend, but some doctors and nurses were also affected."

He said the problem was related to a system change, which involved putting in place measures to centralise payments to root out fraud and so-called "ghost" employees.

The new system also required workers and local health institutions to submit documentation before they could be paid. Kupelo said the doctors picketed during their lunch hour because of the salary backlog.

"We are continuing to do everything we can to ensure the salaries are paid," Kupelo said.

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