Call for doctors to be health activists

2013-11-18 00:00

NATIONAL Member of Parliament and chairperson of the Health Portfolio Committee Dr Bevan Goqwana has called on doctors to be health activists in fighting the current challenges facing the health sector.

Goqwana was speaking at the South African Medical Association (Sama) KZN annual memorial lecture on Saturday.

The lecture celebrated the unsung heroes and heroines schooled at the then University of Natal’s Faculty of Medicine during the apartheid years in Durban.

The faculty provided a medical training programme for students of colour, who were racially segregated and subjected to racism and poor living conditions.

He praised the spirit of these doctors and said they were activists for change in spite of the difficulties they faced, and said that was what was currently needed from the doctors of today.

“The students were active in fighting apartheid, but when 1994 came everyone became complacent,” he said.

Sama national chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom said they supported government’s mission for universal healthcare for all, but their support was conditional.

“We need to partner with the solution and so far it has been half-hearted and adverse and we’re called on at the last minute to engage.”

His other gripe was that the country was not producing enough doctors.

“The excuse is that there is not enough space at the eight medical schools or teachers to train these doctors,” he said.

Between 1996 and 2007, SA produced about 12 000 doctors who qualified and worked in community service, but only retained about 4 000 in the public sector.

He said young medics emigrate to other countries due to a lack of supervision and support, and because of the conditions they work under and lack of accommodation.

Young doctors also lack mentors in specialised fields.

Sama has called on the Department of Higher Education and Training to build medical schools in Limpopo and Northern Cape to answer the problems.

Grootboom believes there has been a meltdown in the health and education sectors and these needed to be a national priority.

Former Alan Taylor residence leader Dr Faruk Mahomed said doctors needed to maintain high ethical standards and do the right thing. “Some of us have forgotten how to listen to our patients,” Mahomed said.

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