Medical graduates threaten to haul Health Department to court over lack of 2022 placements
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Johannesburg - Community service doctors for 2022 have threatened to haul the National Department of Health before the high court if their demands for clarity on their placements are not met by the department, particularly the Cuban-trained doctors affected.
The threat of legal action is a result of the department’s lack of funding to put community service doctors on placements after the department said that it had 2 252 posts that needed to be filled, but could only fill 1 588 as there was funding for only that number of posts, leaving 664 in limbo.
Both the South African Medical Association (Sama) and the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (Judasa) have slammed the department for failure to release community service placements timeously for 2022.
“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,” a letter from Judasa to the department read.
The department indicated a shortfall for 664 placements – of which 600 were doctors trained in Cuba and 64 trained in South Africa– required R664 million in funding, but it did not have the money to fund the remaining doctors.
The department said that it needed around R824m to place interns and community services doctors for 2022, although it had sourced R30m to pay for 120 community service doctors for three months from January 1 to March 31, 2022.
In a letter dated December 2, highlighting key points made in a meeting between the Sama, Judasa and the Health Department, Sama lamented that the number of graduates were more than the number of funded posts and that the threshold surpassed in the last three to four years while the total budget was down by around R80 billion “even with Covid reprioritising funds for everything except vaccinations”.
Sama also slammed the department for “producing more doctors while freezing more posts”.
National Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said that the 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.
He said that they would communicate with all the affected doctors in due course because they have the database of all the applicants and that at the same time they would communicate with the public.
Mohale said that they were working with the Treasury to ensure that they addressed the funding issue, while also adding that in terms of the threats of legal action and protests they would cross that bridge when they get to it.
He said 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.
Mohale said that the department treated all the graduates equally, as long as they were South Africans, regardless of whether they were 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.