The Gauteng doctor who publicly spoke about the poor and unacceptable state of Gauteng healthcare facilities is back to work following a brief suspension that caused a backlash in the healthcare industry.
Paediatrician Dr Tim de Maayer was reinstated at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital on Friday following this precautionary suspension due to alleged “serious misconduct” after criticising the state of healthcare provided to children at the hospital in an open letter published on May 22.
The whistleblower exposed, among others, that the hospital’s tomography scanner had been broken for three months, how the toilets looked when the water was off and how “hospital-acquired infections spread like wildfire”.
De Maayer’s suspension was met with a backlash from the public healthcare industry who demanded that he be reinstated.
The South African Medical Association (Sama) said the decision was “shockingly inappropriate” and threatens to curb the legitimate raising of concerns regarding conditions at state-run facilities by doctors.
“Doctors are entitled to voice their concerns about conditions and are, in fact, duty bound to do so. It notes that the department’s knee jerk reaction to suspend Dr de Maayer is an attempt to suppress the truth about the appalling conditions not only at Rahima Moosa, but other public hospitals,” Sama said.
Wits University said it was appalled to hear of De Maayer’s suspension and called for the unconditional and immediate lifting of his suspension.
“This is a ludicrous situation – instead of resolving the issues raised by the doctor at the coalface, the department has chosen to shoot the messenger,” said Professor Shabir Madhi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “It is not like our healthcare professionals have not raised these issues multiple times through the correct channels, but nothing has happened. How much louder can our doctors and clinicians on the ground speak?”
City of Johannesburg MMC for Health and Social Development Ashley Sauls I said he stood with De Maayer and called on the Gauteng MEC to take decisive action against the officials who issued the suspension.
“People like Dr de Maayer are committed people who work overtime, with a patient ratio that is considerably higher than the average recommended ratio and who work with far fewer resources than they should be afforded, while in many instances still delivering a high-quality service. He acted like a patriot who loves this country and he is the kind of person that our country should celebrate. We cannot allow someone who speaks truth to power to be punished,” Sauls I said.
Non-profit organisation SECTION27 called on the Gauteng Health authorities to lift suspension and address Gauteng’s health crisis.
“Our health system is in crisis and relies heavily on the hardworking staff that go beyond the call of duty to serve patients. When they speak out, it is not for glory. Instead, it is a cry for help and action. Our health system, and the people it is meant to serve need health worker activists who will advocate for their patients. We cannot afford for health workers to be afraid to speak up,” the organisation said.
In response, the Gauteng MEC for Health Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi met with the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital chief executive Dr Nozuko Mkabayi, head of the department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the facility, Professor Ashraf Coovadia and De Maayer to engage on the matter regarding his precautionary suspension.
According to the Gauteng Department of Health, the meeting was “fruitful” and the matter was “resolved amicably” and De Maayer was reinstated back at work.
“The department remains committed to tackling challenges within the Gauteng Health system, while continuing to render services to millions of patients annually”, said MEC Mokgethi.
The department said the team of the hospital has agreed to work together to continue to address the issues raised in De Maayer’s open letter.