KZN blacks-only medic registrar drive slammed
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Doctors’ and advocacy groups raised concerns when the department gave a directive that the 100 registrar posts available for 2019 be filled with black candidates.
Registrar posts are jobs given to qualified doctors who wish to train to become specialists in various fields such as community health, oncology and gynaecology.
The department said there was an excess of coloured, white and Indian registrars in KZN and a shortfall of black registrars. Out of 314 registrars, 128 are black while 127 are Indian, 41 white and 18 coloured.
If no suitable candidates were found during the recruitment process, the posts would be re-advertised, according to the directive.
Requests for deviations would be considered, provided that those were “convincingly motivated for”.
Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said that after difficulties were experienced in recruiting black candidates for these posts, a deviation was sought from the accounting officer.
“And out of a total of 77 registrar posts which are in the process of being finalised, 21 posts will be offered to non-black Africans. Addressing the imbalances of our shameful past of apartheid and separate development is not only an imperative legislative mandate of government that must be fulfilled, but it is also the morally and socially right thing to do.
"To this end, government continues to implement legislation that is aimed at achieving some form of redress through the Employment Equity Act,” he said.
Dhlomo said despite the department’s best efforts, South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal, remained an unequal society with limited opportunities for self-development for those who had been historically oppressed.
“We still have a long way to go in the creation of a country, economy and job market that is inclusive and free from unfair discrimination, that we can all be proud of. We therefore should remain unapologetic about addressing these imbalances of the past,” he said.
This stance, however, did not sit well with a doctor practising in the public health sector.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the doctor said the recruitment process showed racial bias.
“The directive is blatantly discriminatory. This will impair service delivery to patients in a system already crippled by a lack of doctors. If you design admission criteria based on race alone and ignore the quality of the candidate altogether, the training programme begins to spiral and the entire system will break,” he said.
Mary de Haas, KZN violence monitor and member of the Medical Rights Advocacy Network, said representivity was important, but any selection, regardless of race, should be based on academic performance in the first degree and ideally also an indication that the candidate had aptitude in that field.
“Above-average academic performance is essential for selection to any higher degree, plus some indication of real interest in the subject and demonstrated aptitude for it. This government has had 25 years to implement non-racialism, including in medicine, and it has messed up badly because of bad education and mismanagement of health facilities,” De Haas said.
The South African Medical Association said transformation was not about addressing the demographics alone.
Dr Zanele Bikitsha, the association’s KZN coastal branch chairperson, said there was a need to look at the health system as a whole, and that transformation in the sector would not be achieved overnight.
Dr Imran Keeka, DA spokesperson for health, said any attempt to redress the injustices of the past must ensure the commitment to stick to the Constitution.
“Any deviation in the form of any policy that causes the domination of one race over the other by exclusion is nothing more than an aberration of our constitutional values and is racist,” he said.