Health department denies cutting medical doctors’ salaries

The Department of Health has disputed reports of salary cuts for doctors in order to hire and compensate new doctors.

According to the department, its progress in appointing more health professionals, particularly medical doctors, to strengthen the public health system and satisfy South Africans’ health needs has no bearing on the remuneration of those currently in the system.

Only commuted overtime no longer available

Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the department, stated that there are no compensation decreases. However, doctors would no longer get commuted overtime.

“A total of 2,066 health professionals have been appointed between January and March 2024, across the country,” said Mohale.

“The appointments are as follows: 1,121 medical doctors, 579 professional nurses, 127 allayed workers and 100 pharmacists. A total of 91 radiographers, 23 dentists and nine environmental health officers.”

He stated that the recruitment process was ongoing, and provinces were finalising more appointments. This in order to enable successful candidates to assume duties in May.

The appointments come after 800 unemployed medical doctors marched to the department of health offices in KwaZulu-Natal early this year. They submitted their memorandum of demands to deputy health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo.

R3.7-billion has been allocated

Dhlomo said he will escalate the matter to Health Minister Joe Phaahla. The minister said an additional budget of R3.7-billion has been allocated. This allocation was  towards compensation of employees in the sector for the financial year 2024/2025. It aims to address the wage bill increase and recruitment of additional staff. This includes nurses and medical doctors.

In February, the South African Medical Association warned the health department that it would lose good doctors. The reason being that they were underpaid.

“The country has one of the most skilled doctors who are in high demand in other countries. They will not hesitate to take those offers if the system is still the way it is,” said SAMA chairperson Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa.

He went on to say the doctors love their country and would love to serve its people. But circumstances are against them.

Doctors earning 13% less than they should be earning

Meanwhile, Dr Mzulungile Nodikida, the recently appointed CEO of SAMA, said doctors receive inadequate compensation for the amount of labour and responsibility they perform.

“We have done a study, and we now know that doctors are earning 13% less than they should be earning.

“This is across the board, especially in the public sector. We are far behind. The middle layer, which is the bulk of clinicians, was not touched by any increment,” Nodikida said.

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