As the health crisis in North West continues, 73 doctors have penned an open letter in a plea for urgent action to be taken.
Some of the hospitals and clinics in the province closed after staff members downed tools in a strike led by the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union.
There were also reports that some staff had intimidated their colleagues and forced them to abandon patients.
The strike, which began two months ago, led to a shutdown of the main medical depot‚ resulting in a shortage of medication and other supplies.
In the letter, the doctors say that some of the issues which have ignited the crisis include:
Freezing of posts despite resignations/retirements;
Shortages of skilled personnel and support staff within the sector;
Performance Management and Development System challenges that are unresolved;
Non-payment of service providers resulting in shortages of medication, surgical sundries, interruption and lack of telephones and poor internet access.
The doctors said another factor was the demand for the resignation of the health head of department, Dr Thabo Lekalakala, who has been implicated in alleged corrupt activities.
The outsourcing of services by the department is also on their list of issues, and the doctors have warned that the crisis could end up being worse than the Life Esidimeni tragedy.
Their open letter serves as a plea for urgent action to be taken.
“We have taken an oath to ‘do no harm’ and in our silence‚ we have contributed to harm. This cannot go on as we are concerned about methods used which include closure of health care facilities that affect the health of our society‚” the letter reads.
“Of note provision of health care is an entrenched Constitutional right in South Africa. The grievances of the striking employees are valid and supported‚ however the modus operandi is condemned‚ particularly the shutting down of health service provision,” they wrote.
Speaking on the SABC’s Morning Live show, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi expressed his dismay at the situation. The army’s health service was deployed in the province to assist, but Motsoaledi said it was “a temporary measure”.
“We will definitely meet the union in the province. My going there was because‚ regardless what grievances people have‚ we do not think they must punish ordinary people‚” he said.
The crisis was exacerbated last week when violent service delivery protests broke out in Mahikeng‚ leading to many roads being shut down and infrastructure damage.
Communities are demanding that Premier Supra Mahumapelo be removed from his position.