Striking doctors in breach of ethics - HPCSA

By Time of article published Jun 22, 2009

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Doctors who go on strike are behaving unethically, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) said on Monday.

"Striking doctors are reminded that they provide an essential service, and as doctors need to conduct themselves in accordance with certain ethical and professional rules," HPCSA CEO Boyce Mkhize said in a statement.

The council threatened participating doctors with suspension or removal from the register if they put patients' health at risk.

However, Mkhize added that doctors' grievances were substantial and called on the government to quickly find a solution.

"We, however, call upon representatives of the employer to expedite resolution of this matter to ensure they would not by their own act or omission inadvertently contribute to an environment where patient care might be compromised."

The Democratic Alliance has also criticised the government for the strike, which has affected some hospitals.

"The strike by doctors in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape today is the almost inevitable result of the shameful lack of respect that this government has shown towards doctors over the past few years," said DA MP and heath spokesperson Mike Waters in a statement.

The government had been relying on the goodwill and the compassion of doctors and legal prohibitions on doctors' strikes to prevent protest action.

The party did not condone what the doctors were doing, but sympathised with the them, and urged the government to rather speed up work on how it could pay its doctors properly, instead of implementing the National Health Insurance scheme.

Public sector doctors in Durban picketed outside the city's King Edward VIII hospital and vowed to continue until Friday until their demands were met.

They were protesting against delays in implementing an occupation specific dispensation, intended to increase their salaries in line with their levels of experience and staunch an exodus to the private sector.

"This is not about us only, it's also about the people of South Africa who depend on the public health sector to save them," said Lebogang Phahladria, president of the SA Registrars Association (Sara), an affiliate of the SA Medical Association (Sama), at the Durban picket.

Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said so far only the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha had been affected by pickets, but key units were open and running and a helicopter was on standby.

"We are fully functional," he said, adding that private sector doctors who did work at hospitals in the province were available if necessary.

Phophi Ramathuba, a Sama negotiator in the sector's bargaining council, said she had been told that the government had resolved its problem of not being able to match a head count with the number of people on their payroll.

"They said they have done their head count," she said.

This provided a ray of hope for Wednesday's meeting, when the bargaining parties were due for their next meeting.

"I can't wait to see Wednesday so that we can resolve this."

Earlier she said that an accurate head count was not available, threatening delays in implementing the OSD. An accurate picture of staff numbers was necessary for cost estimates and projections that the Treasury would have to consider.

Medical officers, medical specialists, dentists, pharmacologists, pharmacists and emergency workers were to have seen the increases by July 1 last year.

Ramathuba warned earlier that the ongoing delays were frustrating doctors who belonged to Sama, which also acted as a Congress of SA Trade Unions-affiliated union.

Sama did not condone or condemn the pickets, and this had led to protests by affiliates, such as the one arranged by registrars on Monday.

Spokespeople available in Western Cape and North West said hospitals there were not affected by Monday's pickets.

The DA's Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said hospitals in the province also appeared to be unaffected.

The health department was not immediately available for comment. - Sapa

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