Hundreds of qualified doctors sit at home with no employment prospects - protesters

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SA Medical Association Trade Union was joined on Thursday by several other trade unions, such as Cosatu, Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA and Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union in a protest against the unemployment of doctors.  Photo: Noxolo Majavu
SA Medical Association Trade Union was joined on Thursday by several other trade unions, such as Cosatu, Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA and Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union in a protest against the unemployment of doctors. Photo: Noxolo Majavu


At least 1 000 qualified doctors are jobless with no prospect of employment. 

Doctors affiliated with various unions staged a protest march against the unemployment of doctors. They marched from Heartfelt Arena in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, to hand over a memorandum of demands to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla at the health department head offices on Thursday.

READ: Medical graduates idling with degrees

The SA Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) was joined by Cosatu, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) and  the Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (Yintu).  

The crowd carried placards that read: "Unemployment of doctors = genocide" and "Hire our doctors now". 

Samatu’s general secretary Dr Cedric Sihlangu said: 

We currently have over 1 000 doctors sitting at home with no prospects of employment. Of course, that is a tragedy considering the dire state of our healthcare. Clinics and hospitals are understaffed. That invariably results in long waiting periods.

Sihlangu conceded that in areas with massive populations, such as Soweto and Tembisa, the doctor-patient ratio was skewed for the worst: "Therefore, it becomes an untellable situation when you have doctors sitting at home when their services are so critical." 

Meanwhile, deputy president of Cosatu Mike Shingange voiced that there was no way the country would have quality healthcare services when there were so many doctors without work.  

READ: Health department terminates graduates’ community service contracts

"You have graduates that go through seven years of schooling. They come and do community service, internship and then later, you cannot place them. But when you go to the hospitals the queues are long and the doctor-patient ratio does not correspond," added Shingange.  

A UCT graduate medical doctor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, commented she hoped that government would increase available funded posts. "We need more available posts that are accessible so that we know where to apply and the channels to be made much easier for us to get into the public sector."  

Denosa Gauteng's acting deputy secretary Bongani Mazibuko says these are nothing new.  

Mazibuko mentioned: 

Nurses and doctors working hand in hand is the only way we are going to solve this. A shortage of doctors means that nurses end up having to do work that is beyond their scope.

Mazibuko adds that in some community health centres, in the absence of doctors, nurses are expected to take up that role.

"This puts nurses in jeopardy because the nursing council ends up taking action against them. It does not only impact on healthcare delivery but the wellbeing and profession of nurses as well."

‘Doctors should be appointed within two weeks’ 

Phaahla received and signed the memorandum outside the national health department offices in Pretoria. According to the memorandum, Samatu gave Phaahla until February 27 to respond. 

The memorandum of demands includes the following:  

  • That all duly qualified and registered medical practitioners currently without employment be appointed to public healthcare institutions within two weeks from today. 

  • That all vacant registrar posts be funded and filled within three months from today; and that in the filling of these posts, South Africans be prioritised in all institutions in the Republic.

  • That all contracts of employment offered to doctors be permanent employment and non-shift work.

  • That the second phase of OSD [Occupational Specific Dispensation] negotiations be commenced to review the salary structure and compensation of doctors inclusive of commuted overtime in the next round of negotiations. 

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