No witch hunt against Gauteng doctors

2013-04-24 22:18

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Johannesburg - The Gauteng health department on Wednesday denied conducting a witch hunt against doctors with regard to overtime and outside work.

Acting provincial department head Ndoda Biyela said his department intended managing the two issues effectively.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that seven specialists had resigned from the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in the past three weeks.

This was reportedly due to pay cuts. Many others had threatened to leave.

The specialists were apparently unhappy because overtime pay was being reduced, leaving junior specialists earning only five percent more than registrars, despite having five years more experience.

Before this decision, there had reportedly been a gentlemen's agreement that government specialists would work 40 hours plus overtime a week at state hospitals, if they could supplement their income with private work.

According to The Times two of the hospital's 26 anaesthetists had resigned and 11 more were expected to follow suit by the end of May.

Speaking at a meeting of clinical heads and senior management of Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital, Biyela said only two anaesthetists and a plastic surgeon had resigned, opting to work on sessional basis.

"Every employee in the public service is required to work a minimum of 40 hours per week," he said.

"In order to ensure full coverage of all service delivery areas, medical practitioners choose one of five overtime options which is then paid with their salaries."

These options were no overtime (A), between four to eight hours of overtime a week (B), nine to 12 hours (C), between 13 to 20 hours a week (D), and more than 20 hours a week if needed (E).

Since overtime pay came with the salary, and had been abused in the past, all the department was asking CEOs and clinical managers to do was ensure the letter and spirit of the overtime policy was adhered to, Biyela said.

Many specialists at Charlotte Maxeke had chosen to work between 53 and 60 hours per week, a minimum of 40 hours a week, and option D for overtime.

For the department to get value for money and ensure service delivery was not compromised, clinical managers were implementing several measures.

These were weekly and monthly rosters, strict attendance register compliance, spot checks to ensure all health care workers were where they were supposed to be, and following up unexplained absences from overtime duty.

According to the Public Service Act the department needs to consider whether the outside work interferes with an employee's role in the department.

"Having been satisfied that all employees have given us the number of hours government pays for them for, we may consider, in terms of the act, granting permission for [outside work]," Biyela said.

He said overtime and outside work were neither conditions of service nor an entitlement.

"These are instruments to compensate for work done over and above the normal [eight hours plus overtime] hours of work," he said.

"We will continue to engage all affected parties through the clinical managers but will not back down in demanding that health care workers are at their workstations for the full hours they are paid [for]."

- SAPA

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  health
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