Calling on all doctors to give five hours of goodwill

2009-07-30 00:00

WE are a privileged lot. We have been blessed by ability and strength of character to see us through a long period of hard study and work. We are blessed with a lot of trust and confidence that other people put in us daily.

The recent strikes have disturbed and troubled me deeply, as does the poor condition of the health service. The already low morale in the public health service has plummeted precipitously. There seems to be no real way out. A total and disastrous collapse of the public health service looms ahead.

A lot has been written recently about the inequity of health services in our country, with the “haves” using up to 80% of the country’s health resources and the “have-nots” having to make do with 20%. Possible solutions to this problem will take a long time to implement. Yet it is urgent that immediate steps be taken to address the situation.

In agonising about our problems, the following idea was given to me.

How about, if every doctor dug within him or herself to find the best part of themselves, and found the will to voluntarily give five hours of every week to serve the underprivileged in our society?

This could take on various forms.

• Doing a surgical slate at a public hospital.

• Seeing H1 patients free of charge at private rooms for the equivalent of five hours a week.

• Doing a morning at a primary health clinic.

This would give a tremendous boost to the morale of the public service doctors. It would give a tremendous boost to the public service resources, and improve access to services for many of our patients.

It would mean fewer than 12% of the doctors’ resources, but would mean a boost of the public health sector resources and service far more than 12%. It would mean that the private sector uses 68% of South Africa’s medical resources, and the public sector 32% — still a huge inequity, but looking a lot better. It would increase the trust between the public and private sector, which is currently very low. This would pave the way for more public and private interaction in a more organised way.

It would require the public-sector hospitals to become creative in accommodating and supporting the services of private doctors.

I call upon all doctors and public health sector institutions to immediately give this idea serious and practical thought, in order to make our country the better place we all want it to be. Such a move would release a tremendous amount of positive energy and goodwill. Maybe other professions could find it within themselves to follow suit? Snowball the goodwill, snowball the 67 minutes of community service.

• Karin Volker is a doctor at Scottburg­h Hospital.


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