200 striking doctors fired

2009-06-30 00:00

ABOUT two hundred striking doctors from hospitals in Durban were sacked after being served with letters of dismissal yesterday.

The doctors had defied a court interdict obtained by the department of Health ordering them to end their strike, which is now in its second week.

The department went to the Labour Court to obtain the interdict last week. “The department started delivering the letters of dismissal on Sunday and Monday, [yesterday]” said KZN doctors’ representativ­e Dr Shailendra Sham.

Sham said they had been in consultation with their lawyers and that doctors who have been dismissed will be represented.

Protesting along Chota Motala (Old Greytown) Road, doctors and health care professionals in Pietermaritzburg say they will not be intimidated by the government to back down on their demands.

Dr Lwazi Manzi, South African Medical Association interns’ representative based at Northdale Hospital, said the interdict has been posted on notice boards in hospitals.

“It was not signed nor dated,” she said.

She said a meeting was held yesterday morning to decide whether to carry on with the strike. “There were 176 doctors present in the meeting, and we voted unanimously to carry on with the strike.

“Government thought they would intimidate us, but they chose to resolve this in a way that would make it worse.”

Manzi said that the acting head of the KwaZulu-Natal department of Health, Dr Yoliswa Mbele, had said that an interdict was the only solution to the matter.

“We, the doctors, say that the only way for this to be resolved is for the government to meet our demands.”

She said the doctors have been consis­tent in their demands. “The government cannot afford to dismiss a single doctor in the public health system.”

The doctors who have been dismissed will be employed in the private sector or go overseas, said Manzi.

She added that those who had lost their jobs would be able to challenge their dismissals because of how the interdict was served.

In Durban, hundreds of doctors lined the streets outside the Nelson Mandela Medical School in Umbilo Road and continued with their strike action. Protesters encouraged passing motorists to hoot to show their support, while copies of the Health Department’s court interdict were handed out.

Striking doctors rejected the department’s 43% pay increase, saying that government has misrepresented the offer.

Doctors told The Witness that they are unfazed by the threats by the Department of Health to dismiss striking doctors. They said they were fighting for better healthcare for their patients.

Many have spoken on condition of anonymity, because they have allegedly been threatened with dismissal.

A doctor who is based at the King Edward Hospital said doctors would continue with the strike despite the threats of dismissal.“Government is using pure apartheid tactics to restrain us. We accept that the strike is illegal. However, we gave them ample time to fix the problem,” she said.

She said that government should be held accountable for patients who die during the strike.

“Government only called in army medics four days after the strike. If anyone dies, it will be government’s fault because they failed to prevent this strike action,” she said.

A doctor at Prince Mysheni in Umlazi said the government should act fast or risk losing more doctors to the private sector.

Attempts to get comment from the department yesterday were unsuccessful.

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