Health department debacle: Doctors unable to access community service jobs

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

Doctors go through a tedious and frustratingly slow process of approval, an experience that leads to some emigrating to practice in other countries.

The department of health’s application portal for doctors hoping to apply for community service positions next year is such a mess that hundreds of doctors are currently still unable to register and verify their details, despite the deadline for applications being only a few days off.

This inability to register and access the available positions means these doctors could be rendered unemployed come January, and will only be able to apply for placement again in the June intake of community service doctors.

Doctors are unable to go into private practice or specialise in South Africa without completing this community service, prompting some to pack their bags and emigrate.

Several doctors, speaking to The Citizen on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, say they have been battling to access the application portal at, and several attempts at logging queries and calling the department’s helpline over the past two weeks have been in vain.

The Citizen saw one doctor’s call logs proving that she had made over 70 calls to the helpline over several days.

Our own attempt at calling the number also proved fruitless, with the automated system constantly ending the call after reaching the “waiting period limit” of 15 minutes.

Doctors complain of having to go through a tedious and frustratingly slow process of approval when applying to the department of health to do the mandatory community service, an experience that leads to some emigrating to practise in other countries.

One second-year intern says the web portal “constantly malfunctions”, while those seeking assistance on the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (Judasa) Telegram chat channel have been referred to an official who works on the site. She was, however, on leave for much of last week.

The admin of the channel has promised several times to provide feedback to the doctors over the past few days.

According to conversations on the Telegram channel, many of those who have been able to log in have been unable to upload their documentation, while some have shared screenshots of the website showing there are no positions available to apply for.

Many are demanding that Judasa request an extension on the application deadline, since they would like to “make calculated decisions” on where they want to work, but expect that they will be forced to grab whatever positions are available once they can access the site.

The Citizen’s attempts to get a response from the department of health yesterday proved futile.

Health spokesperson Popo Maja could only say he “struggled to get answers” from department officials “because it is Sunday” and referred enquiries to chief director Gavin Steel, who failed to answer calls.

One doctor, who is a member of the Judasa provincial committee in his province, wrote a letter to The Citizen detailing the hurdles imposed on young doctors in the country, saying, “I regret that my commitment to making a difference in our country has lessened, although I do not believe that it is from a lack of effort on my part.

“It is because of the multitude of negative experiences I have had and witnessed in the healthcare system.”


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