More than 100 unemployed KZN doctors who have completed their community service marched to the Department of Health offices in Pietermaritzburg on Monday.
The group handed over a memorandum with their grievances as well as their Curriculum Vitaes (CVs).
“The Mercury” spoke to Dr Siyaneliswa Shozi, the spokesperson for the unemployed doctors, who said the memorandum was addressed to provincial and national government officials.
The memorandum called for an end to health-care budget cuts and an additional budget to accommodate all qualified medical practitioners, including nurses, optometrists and pharmacists, among others.
It called for all bursary holders and doctors with contracts to be immediately reinstated once the medical officer contracts are completed.
The doctors also asked for resources such as medicine and vaccines for rural areas. “No doctor must work without the correct tools.”
Another request was for a review of the hiring process in terms of an independent hiring team as well as the speeding up of Human Resources processes.
Shozi, who completed his community service in March 2023, said the lack of jobs has put them in a very bad situation.
“Lack of placement is quite detrimental not only to our finances but also for our mental health as we keep applying every single day and we don’t get responses,” he said.
The government’s hiring processes take around three months to receive a response; even if successful, by the time they are employed, their savings have been exhausted, he said.
Dr Sikelela Ntanda said she completed her community service in 2022 in Gauteng and received a contract until March 2023.
Thereafter, when contracts were not reinstated – as promised – she was forced to freelance.
However, she said work was scarce and she had to compete with other unemployed doctors.
After moving back to Durban, Ntanda said she continued with locum work and managed to find work with a private company three months ago, but after running costs it leaves her with between two to four times less than what she was earning as an intern two years ago.
Ntanda, who has a young child with special needs, said she was in a financial crisis and survived month-to-month by getting loans from relatives.
“I want to go back to serve the people I grew up around, in the hospitals I used to visit and that my relatives still visit. I am frustrated, defeated and desperate.”
Last week, Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, said budgetary constraints were impacting the employment of doctors.
He added that the cost of employment was extremely high taking up to 65% of annual budgets in some facilities.
Phaahla said the department has had several bilateral engagements with National Treasury to find creative ways to shield the health-care service and the frontline workforce.
“The issue of doctors who wish to stay in public service employment is of major concern to us as the department, hence we are doing everything possible, working with the provincial health departments to mobilise resources to fund vacant posts, especially in health facilities in under served communities.”
The national Department of Health had not responded to questions about Monday’s march by deadline.