‘Fiscal constraints to blame for unemployed doctors’

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The Health Department says fiscal constraints are contributing to the lack of employment for hundreds of young health professionals, especially medical doctors who have completed statutory community service programmes.

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla says that while there are budgetary constraints affecting the employment of doctors, the department is working around the clock to address the crisis.

The South African Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) submitted a list of 825 unemployed medical doctors to the department last month.

Deputy Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo says they hope there will not be further budget cuts targeting the health department.

Dhlomo says, “We really want to do the best for our country in terms of health services, but we have constraints because there are other pressures, that’s why the unions are saying ‘please support and not cut too much on health’, but it’s not within them and me to make that decision.

“The impact is now conclusively national to have the budget sliced for all of us. I hope as my minister is engaging with the Treasury, we hope this situation will stabilise and will improve next year.”

VIDEO: Full interview with Health Deputy Minister Dhlomo:

Public health system

Samatu General Secretary, Dr Cedric Sihlangu says delays in the placement of graduate doctors is crippling the country’s public health system due to dire staff shortages.

Sihlangu says there is no political will to urgently address the crisis.

He says, “The staff shortages are a long-known phenomenon. Our belief is that the health system in the public sector is actually collapsing. We have clinics and hospitals without a single doctor and yet we have numerous unemployed doctors sitting at home.”

“We’ve diagnosed the problem to not be just an issue of funding. The people who are meant to preside over the system and take decisions do not use public health systems, they use medical aid schemes. As a result, there’s no urgency about resolving this problem,” Sihlangu adds.