Health professionals 'underpaid'

2009-05-18 13:10

Pretoria - There is no doubt that doctors and other health care professionals are underpaid, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in Pretoria on Monday.

"It is not up for debate, their remuneration does not satisfy us as well," Motsoaledi told the media at his first press conference since he was sworn in as minister last week.

Motsoaledi was responding to the recent doctors' strike over low salaries.

"The issue under debate is when and how this problem will be solved."

He said as a medical doctor himself he wanted to assure his colleagues it was a problem he had personally experienced.

In fact the problem dated further back than 1994, he said.

"The problem with remuneration is like a septic wound, no-one can suture it immediately," he said, adding it would be a lengthy process.

National Health Insurance

Referring to the proposed and controversial National Health Insurance - to be implemented in the next five years - Motsoaledi said there were enough resources for the continued existence of the public and private health care sectors, however the funding allocation between these areas was "skewed".

He said 5% of gross domestic product was spent on 11% of the population, while only 3% was spent on the remaining 89%.

"We think there is something grossly wrong with that. We need to use the resources available, I'm one of the seven million people [who have private health care], what about the remaining 42 million?

"It's got nothing to do with abolishing private health care," he said adding that it was not in his mandate.

"The National Health Insurance, part of its function [is] to try and contain the costs that are spiralling out of control."

Motsoaledi said he was under no impression that the problems facing the health department were huge, but his instruction from President Jacob Zuma was to "hit the ground running".

He said in his 15 years in the health sector he had identified several weaknesses in government.

These included financial management, municipal infrastructure and human resources development.