Doc’s red tape drama

2016-07-11 12:35
Linda Makomde with her son Michael Musiwe (eight months) under the watchful eye of Dr Afke Robroch, who has cared for him for the last two months in the critical paediatric unit at Grey’s hospital.

Linda Makomde with her son Michael Musiwe (eight months) under the watchful eye of Dr Afke Robroch, who has cared for him for the last two months in the critical paediatric unit at Grey’s hospital. (Supplied )

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Pietermaritzburg - A specialist paediatric doctor who says she has helped reduce the mortality rate of infants at Grey’s Hospital over three years, is leaving for Holland after her application for a critical care permit was granted three days before her work permit expired.

Dr Afke Robroch, one of only four such specialists in KwaZulu-Natal, left her family and life in Holland to work in South Africa in 2013, thinking she would spend the remainder of her life here.

However, Robroch is now having to leave the country and head home.

“I waited two years to be registered with the Health Professions Council of SA [HPCSA] before coming to South Africa,” she said.

“It was quite a struggle, but I was persistent and adamant that I wanted to work as a doctor in this country.”

Robroch said she quit her job, packed up her life and moved to Pietermaritzburg in 2013, commencing work as a paediatric specialist in critical care.

While working with critically ill children, she was also involved in outreach programmes, travelling to either Lady­smith or Newcastle once a month to help build the skills of other doctors.

“When I moved here, I thought this is where I would stay forever,” she said.

“I love my work. I am passionate about it and my skill is extremely scarce.”

In 2014, Robroch applied for a critical care permit at the Department of Home Affairs, hoping to continue her work at Grey’s.

However, she discovered later, when her application was rejected, that she had received the wrong paperwork.

This happened a few more times until she thought she had all the correct papers in September 2015.

“I finally sent everything in. However, my application was rejected because I was missing one document that I had in my possession, but was told I did not need it.

“I asked if I could send that in and appealed the case, but they said there was an 11-month backlog and the appeal would only be looked at in October 2016.”

Robroch said she then tried to extend her work permit and asked Edendale hospital for an endorsement letter in January, to send with her application.

“I received the letter in April, and by then it was too late.

Her work permit expired on July 1 and the new permit was processed on June 28, after she had booked tickets back to Holland and accepted a job at a hospital there.

“I struggled for two years. E-mails were sent weekly to the department.

“It was not my wish to go back to Holland; it was a forced decision.”

She said that only three critical care paediatric specialists would be left in the province when she left.

“I have been at Grey’s every day. I love my job and knowing I have to leave is incredibly sad and frustrating,” she said.

With 40 critically ill children admitted to the hospital each month, Robroch said she had helped bring down the paediatric death rate at Grey’s.

Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said: “Employer-employee contractual relations are confidential and treated as such, unless required by law to deviate from this.”

The Home Affairs Department did not respond to questions.

Robroch is currently in the country on a tourist permit and leaves for Holland on August 9.

Read more on:    department of home affairs  |  pietermaritzburg  |  health

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