When ‘50%’ is not 50%

2009-06-27 00:00

HEALTH care professionals say the government misrepresented its pay offer, hiding the fact that existing benefits have been “lumped into the offer”.

They added yesterday that they will continue with their strike action in spite of government threats.

According to the government’s offer that was released by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Wednesday, interns are the only health professionals who will see their pay being raised to close to the 50% they had demanded.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, Motsoaledi said interns would receive an increase of between 31% and 53%.

However, according to an analysis by a company commissioned by the South African Medical Association (Sama), the government’s offer shows that intern doctors will earn an increase of 43%.

Registrars were said to receive an increase of up to 60%, but the analysis shows this to be only 22%.

“We take exception to the fact that the government released the figures before consulting the bargaining chamber, which is a breach of protocol,” said Sama intern representative Lwazi Manzi. “What the government has done is lumped our benefits into the offer,” she said.

This means that although doctors will be getting higher salaries, benefits such as medical aid, pension and housing will now be included in those salaries and doctors’ take-home salaries will not have increased much.

Manzi said that although most health professionals have been included in the government’s offer, pharmacists and Emergency Medical Rescue Services staff were not represented.

KZN Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo has issued an ultimatum to striking doctors, calling on them to return to work or “face the music”.

“We as the department of Health are designated as an essential service provider and therefore find the action of these health professionals [is] disrupting service delivery and compromising patients’ lives,” Dhlomo said.

Notices were sent to all hospitals calling on striking medics to resume their duties no later than 8 am yesterday, Dhlomo said, adding that his department is preparing a court interdict to force the medics to end the strike.

Dr Shailendra Sham, a spokesman for the striking doctors in KZN, said the ultimatum means nothing. He vowed that the doctors would intensify the strike. “We will also defy a court order if the department manages to interdict us,” he said. “When we started this unprotected strike we had full understanding that we were putting our jobs on the line. We are prepared for any eventuality.”

During visits to hospitals, the MEC found that 90% of doctors and dentists, and some pharmacists, were not at work.

Dhlomo said people have died due to the unavailability of doctors. He was unable to say how many have died.

He said the department has received information from the National Intelligence Agency that the strike is no longer about salaries.

“It is becoming clearer that this strike action is deeper than what the eye can see…”

Dhlomo said certain groups of doctors have undermined the negotiation process.

Reacting to the MEC’s allegations, Sham said it is insulting to politicise the doctors’ genuine demands.

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