Hope for unemployed doctors

Dr Thanduxolo Cele and the Dr Sandile Tshabalala, Head of Department of Health in KZN, shaking hands following an agreement on the employment of the unemployed doctors. Picture: Sandile Makhubela

Dr Thanduxolo Cele and the Dr Sandile Tshabalala, Head of Department of Health in KZN, shaking hands following an agreement on the employment of the unemployed doctors. Picture: Sandile Makhubela

Published Apr 10, 2024


THERE is hope in sight for unemployed doctors, after the KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane said that 120 posts would be advertised and the recruitment process would be completed by the end of April.

In a statement, the department said the advert had been issued by yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon.

The doctors staged a sit-in in front of the department’s provincial headquarters, at Natalia Building, in Pietermaritzburg, since last week, saying they would not leave until their demands of immediate employment had been met.

Officials met with a delegation from the unemployed doctors’ ad-hoc committee twice last week, where the department’s financial challenges were explained.

This had prevented it from filling vacant medical posts, the department said.

In February, 150 doctors took to the streets in Pietermaritzburg and handed over a memorandum at the department’s offices, calling on health officials to address the unemployment crisis.

At the time, Dr Siyaneliswa Shozi, the event organiser, told the POST they had handed in their CVs and signed the register, saying they were willing to work anywhere in the country.

In the memorandum they demanded no further budget cuts, and for more money to be made available to employ the doctors.

At the time, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said they were working to ensure that unemployed doctors who wanted to join the public service would be placed by April 1.

“Our team is working with the National Treasury to thrash out the details and they are working with provincial health departments to speed up the process so that by April 1, 2024, all those who are not in posts will be able to start,” said Phaahla.

But, to date this has not materialised.

Unemployed doctor, Nombuso Phehle, a member of the Unemployed KZN Doctors Committee, who was part of the sit-in, said last week: “We are reading about other provinces which have released their vacancies and here we are, ready to work but still waiting. We know there is a shortage of medical staff in the province.

“My concern is the impact the shortage is having on communities, who have to wait long hours for treatment and staff who are overworked. There is a dire need for health care in our country.”

Phehle said after they had handed over the memorandum they were meant to receive a response in 14 days, but there had been no feedback.

Dr Shrivedh Singh, 30, from Queensburgh, graduated from the Dalian Medical University in China in 2017.

He wrote his board examinations between 2018 and 2019 and went on to do an internship at Addington Hospital and Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

In 2021, he was at a health centre in the Northern Cape for his community service.

“After completing my community service, I struggled to get a job. I worked in a locum position. In September last year, a post opened up at a hospital in the Western Cape. I had an interview in October and in November I was told that I was successful and would need to start in December. I left my locum position to prepare for the move. However, just before I could start, I was told that the position had been frozen due to funding issues. It will open sometime in April, when the new budget comes into effect,” he said.

Singh said the news took a toll on his mental health.

“I became clinically depressed. I waited for an entire year and I thought I would start working. I did not feel motivated. It is frustrating. I have friends who are working and they have told me about the long working hours. Some of them go for 36 hours without sleep.”

He said he witnessed the challenges while working as an intern at the Unit 10 clinic in Phoenix.

“People wait from the early hours of the morning only to be seen later on in the day and this can all be avoided if there was adequate staff.”

Dr Sanisha Rampersad said medicine has been her dream ever since she could remember and after much perseverance and hard work, she earned herself a spot at UKZN medical school and completed her degree cum laude.

Rampersad, from Durban, graduated in 2020 and she also holds two other degrees related to HIV management and medical primaries.

“One would think that all the extra qualifications would make one’s CV quite appealing to those hiring, but it hasn’t been the case. Throughout the six years of medical school I worked part-time to help fund my studies. I was not considered for a bursary despite my excellent academic record as I already was in possession of a postgraduate degree before getting into medical school.”

She said she completed her internship at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital and community service at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

“The last three months have been stressful not only to me but many of my fellow unemployed colleagues out there. There was some hope when the Minister of Health announced that all doctors would be employed by April 1. However, we have not heard back from the government.”

Rampersad said since the minister’s address not many medical officer posts had been advertised in KZN.

“I have been applying for government posts since September last year, as the end of my community service was nearing. I have only been shortlisted twice for an interview. I have also applied to other provinces and have not heard back.”

She said it was really disappointing to know that the government did not have enough funds to employ doctors.

“This, given the fact that public hospitals are already overburdened with patient loads and understaffing. It is also disappointing to know that as a self-funded graduate you are not considered for a job straight out of community service compared to bursary holders who are absorbed into the system.”

Rampersad said the government failed to deliver on its promises made earlier in the year.

“For this reason, the sit-in at the offices in Pietermaritzburg is absolutely necessary as the government needs to address all the concerns raised by unemployed doctors and make sure that a fair chance is given to all applicants.”

Nomagugu Simelane, the KZN Health MEC, said the agreement was that this process would be centralised at head office, to ensure there were no vacancies that were funded and not filled.

“But, this does not give us the right to short-circuit the process. So, we are making a call to the unemployed doctors to please go back home and apply for the positions we will be advertising. Those that do qualify will definitely stand a chance to be employed in the province.”

She said those who were unsuccessful in KZN could apply in other provinces.

Related Topics:

department of health