Johannesburg - Overtime claims by doctors have cost the Gauteng Department of Health millions of rand that should have been used to hire more staff.
The abuse of the system, especially by doctors from several Ekurhuleni hospitals, was identified last year by the department after a tip-off from a concerned doctor.
The Star can reveal that a doctor claimed R822 583 for overtime for the period March 2010 to April 2011. Another was paid R698 765, which is far above the 30 percent threshold doctors are allowed to claim for overtime.
Yet another doctor claimed R35 000 in 10 days for overtime.
The money could have been used instead to fill posts in the health service. Last month, the SA Institute of Race Relations said 56 percent of doctors’ posts in the public sector were vacant, as were 46 percent of nurses’ posts.
Now doctors say they haven’t been paid for overtime, even though they haven’t exploited the system. Outraged doctors from several Gauteng hospitals have threatened to shut them down over the unpaid overtime.
Department spokesman Simon Zwane said measures had been put in place to prevent the abuse of overtime claims.
“The doctors are required to produce proof of the overtime they have worked. They must supply us with the dates they have worked overtime,” he said.
If doctors had exceeded the 30 percent threshold, their managers had to write, explaining why, and also had to provide evidence.
SA Medical Association spokeswoman Dr Phophi Ramathuba said it was unfair for the authorities to refuse to pay doctors for work they had done because their counterparts were suspected of
“I don’t know why the department is becoming a cry baby. There are policies that regulate overtime. The department must deal with the abuse of overtime claims,” Ramathuba added.
DA health spokesman Jack Bloom said the department was punishing the wrong people.
“Doctors who are abusing overtime claims must be exposed and punished.
“But honest doctors must be paid for the overtime they have worked,” he said.
Zwane said that after an investigation, nine doctors had been charged with fraud, contravening overtime contracts and contravening the overtime policy.
Two doctors had been found guilty. He said the investigation of six doctors had not yet been concluded.