The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says while wage freezes in the public sector will ease government’s financial burdens – particularly in the long-term – they must be done with more circumspection.
The organisation was reacting to the Finance Minister’s budget speech, which indicated that the government’s wage freeze on public servants was paying off.
In the 2021 Budget Review on Wednesday, Minister Tito Mboweni said government expenditure will go down by R264.9 billion over the next three years due to the wage freeze.
However, SAMA warns that a blanket approach in the bid to cut down the bloated public service wage bill could have major consequences for the government down the line.
“Healthcare workers in public service already face many challenges that range from a lack of basic equipment and resources to general safety and security at their places of work. Their workloads are also massive with the risk of burnout ever-present. If the doctors in the public sector don’t feel valued, they will leave, and the healthcare system will crumble even further – maybe to the point of total collapse,” says Dr. Angelique Coetzee, the Chairperson of SAMA.
Of particular concern to SAMA is the impact the salary freeze will have on the roll-out of National Health Insurance (NHI), which Dr. Coetzee says, will be heavily reliant on public healthcare workers in well-run public facilities.
She says, “If doctors aren’t being remunerated properly they will find work elsewhere, it’s as simple as that. Many currently stay out of a sense of duty to their country but in the end that won’t keep the pots boiling at home. And, without doctors, NHI will have little chance of succeeding; everything must be done to retain as many medical professionals as possible in the public sector. Not increasing salaries is not the approach.”
Budget allocations in critical sectors: