Doctors' strike cost KZN R10m

2009-07-05 22:13

Durban - The doctors' strike cost taxpayers R10m as the Department of Health had to transfer patients to private hospitals, KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo said on Sunday.

"Our bill is already in the excess of R10m and without the intervention of the members of the South African Health Military Service, it could have been much more," Dhlomo told a function to thank army personnel who helped in hospitals during the strike.

The figure might increase and the department was waiting to quantify how much they had to pay for patients admitted to private hospitals.

"We have finished repatriating the patients and we are holding our breaths as the rates of these institutions differ per day, per diagnosis and by length of stay."

He said the amount of money the department had to pay private hospitals could have been more had it not been for the army's help.

The army provided the department with 430 doctors, pharmacists, emergency care practitioners and support staff.

They were sent to Durban's eight hospitals until Friday when doctors resumed their duties. It was the second time since the 2007 nurses' strike that the army helped the Health Department.

"Had it not been for the intervention of the South African Health Military Service, this province would have lost hundreds of newborn babies during the 2007 strike."

Their presence in public hospitals provided a sense of security and restored people's confidence, Dhlomo said.

"You excelled well beyond our expectations and reduced our fears. You came in prepared to work 12 hour shifts, but in most cases you went beyond that."