The affordable education loan option
Pretoria - Doctors and patients stand to benefit from the newly formed South African Medical Association (Sama) trade union, which will deal with the barriers to the provision of quality health care.
The trade union was formed in response to poor working conditions, and the time lapse between identifying and reporting them.
“We will have representation at provincial level, and shop stewards will be in the hospitals to spot problems and deal with them quickly,” newly elected president Doctor Phopi Ramathuba said.
The union has a steady membership of 9 000, and includes doctors who take shifts in the public sector. It also offers membership to doctors working for non-governmental organisations, and for the police services and the military, Ramathuba said.
“We are unique in that we won’t only be focusing on rands and cents - medical equipment and patients are up there amongst our priorities,” she said.
While the union’s focus was on doctors, they would intervene in instances where problems affecting other professionals such as pharmacists impacted negatively on doctors and patients.
The formation of the trade union was a step towards starting a public health-care revolution, Sama said.
Among the issues it identified as stumbling blocks to the provision of quality services were the severe shortage of doctors, which they attributed to poor administration which failed to appropriately place many doctors and specialists.
Doctors also carried a tremendous workload and were forced to work extremely long shifts, the association said.
Ramathuba said that of the many problems affecting doctors those which stood out included working conditions, hospital or clinic security, low salaries, lack of equipment and a shortage of drugs.
“Having a formal trade union will create a controlled environment for negotiations between doctors and the employer,” she said.
Advocating for patients’ rights would also be a key area of focus for the union.