The South African Medical Association and the Junior Doctors’ Association of South Africa have slammed the Department of Health for failure to release community service placements timeously for 2022. Picture: Myriam Zilles/Unsplash
The South African Medical Association and the Junior Doctors’ Association of South Africa have slammed the Department of Health for failure to release community service placements timeously for 2022. Picture: Myriam Zilles/Unsplash

Community service doctors seeking placement threaten protest action against Health Department

By Samkelo Mtshali Time of article published Dec 7, 2021

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Johannesburg - The South African Medical Association (Sama) and the Junior Doctors’ Association of South Africa (Judasa) have slammed the National Department of Health for failure to release community service placements timeously for 2022.

This comes as the two organisations’ members contemplate protest action in the wake of the department’s inability to guarantee placement for community service doctors in the coming year.

The two medical organisations have claimed the department paints a very grim picture for placements.

A statement from Judasa national chairperson Dr Tshepile Tlali said the department had cited the lack of funding and budget constraints as the primary reason behind the non-placement of community service medical officers.

“They informed us they are pleading with the Treasury to ensure funds are distributed to the internship and community service posts, however with no assurances,” Tlali said.

Tlali said as things stood they were all in the dark and there did not seem to be a favourable outcome in sight.

“We have received numerous calls for protest action from our members. As we know, essential service employees are able to protest in a manner that does not compromise urgent service delivery.

“As Judasa, we are engaging with our employee relations department to figure out how we can voice our discontentment in a safe and legal way,” Tlali said.

In a letter to the department from December 1, Judasa and Sama said they had observed that although there was an intention to run a successful programme, leadership had failed to show timeous action to do so.

“The purported budgetary constraints as quoted by the NDoH is an insult to hard-working public service doctors who helped, and who continue to help, carry this country through relentless waves of Covid-19, however not only limited to Covid-19, while funds are misappropriated through numerous endeavours by the government.

“Failure to communicate and engage with public health servants (ie junior doctors) has consequently resulted in no other course of action,” the letter read.

In addition they demanded the department enter into a legally binding contract, stating that all final placements will be released by October 31 each year going forward and that discussions on community service year to be withdrawn as a compulsory training year for doctors, since government is not able to make financial and logistical provision for the programme.

“Instead, we suggest making provisions for medical officer posts in the public sector to encourage specialist training and keep trained doctors in the country. If the above stipulations are not realised by or on December 3, 2021 the current second year intern medical practitioners, across the entirety of the country, will not serve the public health care system in their capacity as doctors until placements are released.

“In the event that the National Department of Health and all relevant stakeholders fail to communicate, effectively, with the applicants, the applicants will be forced to approach the High Court of South Africa for assistance, on an urgent basis,” the letter from Judasa read.

On the threat of legal and protest action, National Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said they would cross that bridge when they get to it.

Mohale said the national department alongside the nine provincial departments of health had been working closely with the National Treasury to place the doctors in posts to enable them to complete their studies.

“We will communicate with all the affected doctors in due course because we’ve got the database of all the applicants and at the same time communicate to the public in due course. The fact that we are working with the Treasury is to address the funding issue,” Mohale said.

He said claims that the lack of funding for the 600 Cuban trained doctors was not due to discrimination against the Cuban trained doctors as some reports have suggested.

“As a department we treat all the graduates equally, as long as they are South Africans, whether they trained in Cuba or in the country, we treat them equally and we place them equally. There’s no superior or super student or super graduate, all the graduates are medical graduates so there’s no discrimination on any students based on where they graduated,” Mohale said.

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Political Bureau

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