Manto to rural docs: Get on with it

2008-08-25 00:00

Cape Town — “Get down to business. Do what you are employed to do.”

These were the words of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang yesterday to doctors in the struggling hospitals in rural KZN.

Hospitals are losing increasing numbers of doctors, who are not being replaced because of a freezing of posts, introduced because of over-spending by the Health Department.

Asked during a parliamentary media briefing if she had any words of encouragement for the doctors staffing increasingly beleaguered hospitals, Tshabalala-Msimang had this to say: “My encouragement for the doctors is that they took an oath. Get down to business. Do the work you are supposed to do and for which you are employed.”

Manguzi Hospital in northern KZN will soon be down to 10 doctors, from 16 earlier this year, while other hospitals in the area are also losing doctors.

These doctors will not be replaced because of the decision by the provincial department to freeze posts.

Among those leaving Manguzi Hospital is Dr Colin Pfaff, who faced misconduct charges for implementing dual therapy to save babies from HIV. The charges were later withdrawn, following a storm of protest.

Briefing the media on the progress made by the Social Cluster of government,

Tshabalala-Msimang said the doctor shortage issue is not unique to South Africa.

“It is an international challenge. We have embarked on a hospital revitalisation programme to refurbish hospitals and we are also making sure the doctors and health professionals have a particular mindset towards patients.”

Tshabalala-Msimang said her department is currently recruiting professionals from outside countries, including India and Russia.

“We are in discussion with a number of countries. A number of doctors are earmarked for that area [Manguzi] and we are expecting more doctors there.”

She said the recruitment drive will also seek other professionals, such as pharmacists.

Meanwhile, Health KZN MEC Peggy Nkonyeni was due to respond to the Human Rights Commission after the HRC was formally asked to investigate whether Nkonyeni “abused her position to harass and violate the rights of doctors and the community at Manguzi Hospital and in the whole of the Umkhanyakude district”.

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