No more moonlighting for doctors

2011-03-18 00:00

MOONLIGHTING state doctors in Pietermaritzburg and Durban have been identified and are under investigation, Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo told the province’s finance committee at a budget hearing in the Legislature yesterday.

Dhlomo said that despite critical staff shortages in the health sector, moonlighting will not be tolerated as it compromises the services offered and places a burden on dedicated staff who work full time for the state.

Members of the committee were shocked to learn that in KZN there are 25 doctors for every 100 000 people.

Dhlomo said doctors will have to make a choice. “We find that a doctor can leave as early as 10 am to go to their private practice, leaving a junior to work unsupervised,” he said.

The MEC added that if any state doctor is found guilty of moonlighting, the department is obliged to recover what the employee earned in the hours of state time. “We will have to quantify it, this is one of the things that came up in the investigation,” Dhlomo said

John Steenhuisen (DA) said he was encouraged by the probe and said he has forwarded a list of doctors who are moonlighting to the Health Department, along with the location of their private rooms. “Committed doctors are bearing the strain for those who are abusing the system,” he said.

Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi (IFP) noted that the number of legal claims against the department has increased. He asked whether this was as a result of the moratorium on the filling of posts or as a result of doctors moonlighting.

Head of department Dr Sibongile Zungu said not all the cases are new.

“There are cases where we lost a lot of money. No detailed analysis has been done but there are cases that could be attributed to the lack of supervision of junior doctors who are not experienced enough to identify the danger. Claims are also increasing because patients are aware of their rights.”

On staff shortages, Dhlomo said it is not a matter of his department refusing to employ doctors, but rather that KZN is also affected by the countrywide shortage of doctors and specialists. Plans for new medical schools and greater enrolment in the existing schools will help in this regard, he said.




THE decentralisation of the distribution of medicine is one of the ways that the KZN Health Department is hoping to reduce queues at hospitals, KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo answered when asked what the department is doing about bottlenecks at hospitals.

Department head Dr Sibongile Zungu said a study had been done nationally looking at dispensing medicines and shortening queues. Several proposals will be tested. Suggestions include patients making a choice where their medicine should be delivered.

She said that in the uMgungundlovu District, plans are already underway to decentralise the system by taking doctors to clinics, saving patients a trip to the hospital just for their repeat medications.

Finance committee chair Belinda Scott also asked the Health Department to report on how the 74 hospitals run by the department can be assessed. “I don’t know which hospitals work and which don’t and whether the reports in the media are blown out of proportion or not,” said Scott.

She added that having this information will allow the Legislature to improve its oversight role.

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