“We now have to decide in the department: do we buy more ambulances, buy food for patients, or decrease the intake of more doctors?” according to Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
He uttered these words following a march of unemployed medical doctors on Monday to the KwaZulu-Natal department of health offices in Pietermaritzburg to hand over their memorandum of demands.
Despite Dhlomo emphasising that the department stands with the doctors, he highlighted that financial constraints hindered placements, especially because the country has a large pool of doctors.
Dhlomo said the pool increased after the government called for universities to expand their intake and an injection of doctors from Cuba.
“We do not disagree with them because they are a part of us. The improvement of health services is our key, and they can only improve by injecting good, disciplined, well-qualified doctors, nurses, and all healthcare professionals,” said Dhlomo.
Addressing the unemployed doctors after receiving the memorandum, Dhlomo said he had a discussion with the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla.
Positive developments are on the way
“The minister has had meetings with the minister of finance, and there are positive developments that the minister will announce in the State of the Nation Address debate on Wednesday,” Dhlomo added.
Earlier this month, the South African Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) made remarks on the health minister’s address to the unemployed doctors.
Samatu general secretary Dr Cedric Sihlangu, said, according to the union, the minister’s acknowledgment of their challenges without presenting an actionable framework to address them exemplifies a poor showing from the department.
“The suggestion that since the affected doctors are independent, some should consider going into private practice is a slap in the face to those dedicated professionals who have been serving diligently in the public sector, often under challenging conditions, and who remain committed to the principle of equitable access to healthcare for all South Africans,” said Sihlangu.
According to the union’s survey, about 800 trained doctors are unemployed.
“Samatu is calling for the minister of health and the department to immediately engage with the reality faced by unemployed doctors who have recently completed their community service.”