They work long hours. They hold the lives of people in their hands. They train for years. But they get treated like second-class citizens by government. They often don’t get paid on time, they work hours in excess of the legal limit, their working environments are dangerous and they are often treated with disrespect by their bosses.
Medical professionals – especially doctors and specialists working in government health facilities – have every right to feel aggrieved. Many of them, battling depression and exhaustion due to constant abuse from the state health system, are applying to work abroad and will be lost to this country forever.
It is an appalling situation all round. That is before factoring in the mess at the internet portal the health department runs to manage applications for community service by newly qualified doctors.
As we reported yesterday, this portal simply does not work as it should.
When frustrated medics try to phone the department’s helpline, calls go unanswered and get cut off after 15 minutes of holding on.
This is unacceptable. And the person who is directly responsible – because the buck must stop at his desk – is Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
One would have thought that as a former practicing doctor himself, he would have some sympathy for those affected by the shambles that is his department. Apparently not …
If the health minister cannot get some of the basics right in the conditions of service of doctors and other medical staff in the state system, how on earth is he going to be able to run the much more ambitious National Health Insurance scheme?
Mr Minister, medical staff are vital for a functioning society. We need to value their contribution and start treating them with respect.