Union accuses Health Department of failing young doctors

Union accuses Health Department of failing young doctors. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA

Union accuses Health Department of failing young doctors. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA

Published Jan 28, 2024


The Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (Haitu) has slammed explanation given by the National Health Department on its inability to place the more than 8 000 young doctors.

Last week, the department blamed lack of funding for the increase in the numbers of newly qualified doctors without internships at health institutions across the country.

“Unemployed doctors, specifically those who have completed their internship and community service, primarily fall into the medical officers and junior specialist categories. The South African Medical Association (Sama) expresses deep concern over the escalating issue of the joblessness among these qualified professionals.

“The root causes are identified as insufficient planning by the Department of Health and lack of adequate funding from treasury to create posts for these doctors. Despite eagerness to contribute to the public sector, the sector faces challenges in absorbing their skills, contributing to the plight of unemployed doctors,” Sama said.

Haitu accused the department of spreading propaganda after the department indicated that some of the challenges were that young doctors were not eager to work in rural settings.

“Haitu rejects this piece of propaganda from the department with the contempt it deserves. It is very clear that the department is trying to scapegoat young, unemployed doctors for its failures when it comes to completing community service.

“If one were to read the comments of ordinary people who responded to the department on X, one can see that their allegations have been rejected. Junior doctors know the department is not being entirely truthful about the situation, which is why they are confronting them on X,” Haitu’s Lerato Mthunzi said.

Mthunzi said the government’s policy requires professionals to complete a 24-month internship before entering the professional sector.

“The community service policy requires health professionals to complete 12 months community service or 24 months internship through remunerative work in the public sector. The programme incorporates different categories of health-care workers, not just doctors. For example, dentists, audiologists, professional nurses, dieticians, occupational therapists and pharmacists are among those who qualify for the programme.

“It is unfortunate that the department chose to target doctors in its propaganda. It is clear this is an attempt to cast negative aspersions on newly trained doctors and portray them as pampered or spoilt, when there is much more to the story.

“As a union which is organising all health workers, we are aware that newly trained doctors have good reason to raise concerns about where they are placed for community service,” Mthunzi said.

Speaking to The Star, this week, spokesperson Foster Mohale said the department is constrained by lack of funding which does not affect on the department but cuts across all government departments.

“The issue of government cuts does not only affect the health sector, but the public sector at large. We have to consider and prioritise all essential service workers when we fill the posts because doctors still need to work in a team with nurses and other support staff. Efforts are being made working with the health departments to find budget for unfunded posts,” Mohale said.

The Star