Return of seasoned doctors causing a budget strain – Phaahla

Doctors who had left the public sector for private practice, and those who had left the country and returned, put a strain on the Department of Health’s budget to hire doctors who had recently completed community service.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla stated this to the media on Wednesday during an update on Mpox disease.

Phaahla said that though the situation was highlighted early in the year, over 1,200 appointments of doctors were made. However, when news broke that funds would be available, doctors who had gone into private practice returned to the public sector.

Uptake got much higher than union’s numbers

“The uptake became much higher than the numbers that we were given by the medical unions. It is good that there is more doctors who want to come back. But it puts more pressure,” he said.

Phaahla stated that the issue of Eastern Cape doctors had been addressed. Doctors were picketing outside the department of health offices in East London and camping outside the department’s offices in Bhisho for two weeks.

“There has been a lot of progress on the issue of unemployed doctors. [However,] there were still problems in the Eastern Cape until recently. And I asked the DDG from human resource in the department to assist. This was because the problem in the Eastern Cape was not lack of funds. 

“It was a matter of activating the system and making sure that the applications which were there are being processed.

Eastern Cape, KZN issues addressed

“The provincial treasury was the most proactive of all provinces. …When there was an allocation of over R3-billion, the Eastern Cape treasury had directed the department to ring-fence about R300-million to address the issue of unemployed doctors. But unfortunately there were weaknesses in the HR section of the department. That is why I asked our team to work with the province to speed up the appointment of those doctors.” 

He went on to say that, with the exception of the Eastern Cape, the larger noise in KwaZulu-Natal had been resolved.

“I am assuming that it has been resolved. Because there was an agreement between the doctors and the province in how the posts would be advertised and filled.”

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