Moonlighting doctors

2013-10-29 00:00

THE problem of doctors who work full time for the government but who also run private practices at the same time, continues unabated.

There are a number of doctors who are paid handsome salaries for working full time at Grey’s and Edendale hospitals, who also have rooms at one or more of our private hospitals in town.

These doctors (physicians, surgeons, and gynaecologists, among others) are supposed to be at work at Edendale or Grey’s during the day, but they are actually operating and seeing patients at a private hospital instead.

They openly and shamelessly have their names on the doors of their private practices.

This means that they earn their full-time salary from the government, plus they are also making a large sum of money in private practice.

There are a number of reasons why this is alarming. One, it is illegal. It is stealing money from the government. It is no different from any other form of corruption.

Two, it is out in the open and nobody is doing anything about it. It’s like they are openly stealing large amounts of goods from the shelves of Checkers every day, and nobody is stopping them.

Three, it is terribly sad that these doctors are so greedy that the government salary they earn is not enough for them, to the extent that they actually stoop to the level of engaging in criminal activity to earn more.

Four, the leaders in their government departments are too weak to stop them. Five, the doctors who are working full-time in private practice are actually very unhappy about these rogues from the public sector invading their turf, but they are unable to do anything about it, as long as the private hospitals welcome them.

Six, they make all doctors look bad and greedy. Some of us are actually dedicated to the care of patients who cannot afford medical aid, and to the development of the government service.

There is nothing wrong with making the choice to work in private practice —  that is a necessary service too — but do one or the other, not both. It is illegal!

There is a belief that if these doctors were to be dismissed from the public sector, that the sector would collapse.

This is far from the truth, and those who will be left on the ground are more than willing to go the extra mile to cover the bases until the system has once again been built to its full strength.

We would rather work harder with a smaller team of honest colleagues than with a large team of blatant thieves.

They should be dismissed, criminally prosecuted, and stripped of their medical licences.

Anything less would make a farce of our medical system, our government, our criminal justice system, and of the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

• John Freeborn is a pseudonym for a Pietermaritzburg medical practitioner.

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