Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has kicked off the new year as a volunteer doctor, and will do so monthly in the outpatient departments of health facilities around the province.
He has challenged other health professionals to do the same as part of continuing Nelson Mandela’s legacy.
Dhlomo said he began his work on Thursday at the remote Hlabisa Hospital in northern KZN.
“Mandela’s death was a defining moment for us. The aftermath of his death evoked a strong calling in all of us as a nation to step up and keep his legacy alive.
“That was the overwhelming sense which must guide us, and by working as a doctor for free – even if it means for an hour each month – I feel I am using my skills and profession to serve society not just as a paid MEC, but also practically where I can contribute towards social upliftment without expecting to be paid for this.
“I will continue to do this each month and as much as my schedule allows within my role as MEC. This is about serving through example, and I don’t expect or want any preferential treatment when I work within our facilities, including mobile clinics.
“If there are resource shortages when I show up unannounced to assist, then I will still roll up my sleeves and continue to treat patients like all my colleagues in the sector do,” said Dhlomo.
Asked if this was not simply electioneering ahead of this year’s elections, Dhlomo said: “Of course there are those who will see it as such, but how can we call on people to continue Mandela’s legacy if we don’t practise this ourselves?
“There is no better time to kick-start Mandela’s legacy than the start of the new year and make it a resolution.
“I would like to challenge all my health colleagues, both in an out of the state health sector, to do the same – to put in a few hours of voluntary work in our public health facilities, especially those where extra hands are needed.
“We are going to intensify our efforts to ensure that core standards in health care are implemented across our facilities and that we work harder than ever to reduce the rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality in this province,” said Dhlomo.
“But this is not an isolated health issue. It needs a more collective approach to addressing social and economic challenges,”
The DA’s KZN health spokeswoman, Makhosazana Mdlalose, has cautiously welcomed Dhlomo’s initiative, saying all South Africans had a duty to contribute towards uplifting each other.
“The MEC’s gesture to work as a doctor for free each month is a positive one to start the year on and needs to be welcomed, but I hope it is not a political move.
“His performance as an MEC has not been a bad one, as he is known to be quite hands-on and involved, but he has made some poor decisions along the way which unfortunately then counter some of the good he does. So in terms of points, he gets an average score based on this,” Mdlalose said.