Major pay hikes for doctors

2009-06-24 12:37

Pretoria - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced major wage increases for medical professionals at a media briefing at the Union Buildings on Wednesday, in a bid to stall further strike action.

Government has agreed to raise some salaries to about double what was offered in April, meaning some of the country's lowest-paid doctors will get up to a 53% pay increase.

Motsoaledi said however that the government did not have enough money to increase doctors' salaries by 50% across the board.

The new packages will cost the state more than R1bn, and will be implemented as of July 1, if accepted by the SA Medical Association (Sama).

Motsoaledi apologised for the 11-month delay in meeting the demands of doctors and other medical professionals. "We were wrong in this case," he said, speaking at an "extraordinary" media briefing, taking place outside the Public Service Bargaining Council.

Discrepancies in salaries

He said the briefing was necessary as much of the negotiations seemed to be taking place through the media in the highly publicised issue, with incorrect figures being bandied about.

One of the major challenges was the major discrepancies in salaries for the same position. "For instance in an attempt to retain skills, provinces and institutions ended paying medical professionals different salaries in a desperate bid to retain and recruit especially in rural areas. For example, some provinces advertise positions at higher levels and end up appointing junior doctors in those positions."

Thus doctors across the board received varying increases to bring particular ranks to a single salary structure.

However rural allowances would still remain.

Summary of raises

Interns will receive a total package of R314 023. This represents an increase ranging from 31% to 53%, with the lowest-paid receiving a 53% increase and the highest-paid receiving a 31% increase to arrive at the same package.

The proposed salary package for medical officers (community service) who are contracted for a year, will move from a range between R330 226 – R357 524 to a total salary package of R392 599. This represents a differentiated increment ranging from 9.8% to 18.9% to address the inequalities.

"Principal and chief specialists (professors) have been very difficult to retain in the system due to their high level skill, " Motsoaledi said.

Packages for principal specialists move from R769 271 to R962 174, which represents a 25.1% increase. Chief specialist (professor) packages move from R932 399 to R1.2m, which represents a 29% increase.

He pointed out that one of the most problematic areas of the present salary structure is that those who decide to study further and specialise (registrars), took a major drop in salary. "In order to address this disincentive to study, we are increasing registrar salaries from 18.3% to 60.1% to arrive at a salary package of R528 770, from a low of R330 226 to a high R446 853."

The government dealt with Sama, an affiliate of Cosatu, in the negotiations. Sama did not condone the strike action carried out in parts of KZN and Free State, by some doctors.

Motsoaledi called the threatened strike action - illegal for doctors - a "highly abnormal" situation, which he hoped the country would never experience again.

He said he hoped the revised offer would halt further protests by doctors.