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Johannesburg - Doctors at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital are reeling after losing out on their December overtime pay.
This comes after the commuted overtime contract was changed from an April-to-March contract to a January-to-December contract, with some saying they were not informed of the decision.
It was only when their payslips came through on January 15 that many learnt of the new contract they had not signed in time to claim their overtime.
“That’s 30 percent of our salaries,” said one senior doctor, who did not want to be named. “There was no warning. Nobody informed us.”
DA Gauteng health spokesman Jack Bloom said the commuted overtime contracts of 750 doctors were changed. He said the “massive blunder” could make doctors leave their posts.
Hospital spokesman Monde Ntebe said it appeared that mostly senior, permanent doctors were affected by the change.
“But some people went through the system, signed the new contracts and got paid,” he said. “These are people who form part of the very same system. They got paid. Others did not.”
He said the hospital was still investigating exactly how many employees were shorted, but that people were “timeously reminded” to sign the new contracts.
Both the hospital and the province have committed to paying doctors as soon as the signed documents have been submitted. Meanwhile, doctors who have submitted their paperwork in the past week say they are still waiting.
“We were told the change was a province mandate, and it seems that others at other hospitals got paid their commuted overtime. So why didn’t we know about it at Bara?” asked one doctor. “Are we not recognised as the providers of the primary services? This is not how you retain professionals.”
This comes just days after it was revealed that half the positions in South Africa’s hospitals are empty - and that’s not including specialists or chief executive officers.
In a statement released last week by the SA Institute of Race Relations, the organisation said 56 percent of doctors’ posts in the public sector were vacant, as well as 46 percent of nurses’ posts.
In numbers, that is 14 351 fewer doctors than the country needs and a massive 44 780 fewer nurses.
This excludes dental assistants, specialists, nursing assistants and student nurses.
The 2010 numbers are part of the Department of Health’s own human resources strategy from now until the 2016/2017 financial year.
The figures come on the tail of numerous reports of staff shortages at public hospitals around the country.
At hospitals in Gauteng, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, this has been linked to increased mortality rates - particularly in maternity wards.
Limpopo was worst affected, needing about 5 700 entry-level doctors and over 15 600 nurses. Earlier this month, four children died reportedly because of staff shortages caused by staff being on holiday leave.