Doctor safety still a challenge - body

2011-02-16 19:06

Cape Town - The safety of doctors, especially at hospitals, continues to be a challenge within the medical profession, the South African Medical Association (Sama) said on Wednesday.

"Just like we have safety concerns in general, we have safety concerns among doctors at hospitals," Sama board member, Dr Fazel Randera, told a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health.

He said many doctors brought safety and security concerns to the attention of Sama board members on a regular basis.

Mahlane Phalane, the national chairperson of the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa, told the committee that security issues affected junior doctors in particular because most of them lived at hostels on hospital premises.

"We hope that security will receive urgent response from the members.

"It does not affect the doctors alone. We forget that a doctor's working environment is a patient's environment. So are we going to wait for a patient to get raped before something is done....?"

Lack of staff

He said lack of staff at hospitals contributed to unsafe working conditions for doctors.

"Like the doctor raped in Bloemfontein. She was taking a blood specimen [for testing] when she was raped. If we had more staff to assist with things like that, she wouldn't have been there," said Phalane.

Randera said most doctors also cited safety concerns as one of their reasons for choosing to work overseas.

"Why are doctors leaving our shores for different places? Because of safety and security in a wider sense ... and because of conditions that doctors encounter on a daily basis."

While safety was a pressing issue, junior doctors who were working at hospitals in rural areas also complained of staff shortages and lack of resources.

"Junior doctors took up with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that facilities were not available at those hospitals. There is no oversight of doctors."

Phalane said junior doctors were left alone.

"There is no support, they are unsupervised. We are really unhappy," he said.

The HPCSA was not present at the committee and so no response was given to the safety issues raised.

The chairman of the committee indicated that the HPCSA would probably be called to the next meeting.

In the past few years, doctors at hospitals raised security concerns after several doctors were raped while on duty.


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