Doctors, nurses left in limbo without jobs

Hundreds of graduates are sitting at home after the health department bungled their placement into public health facilities to do community service and internships.

In December, the department issued a statement saying that 9 797 health professionals were allocated for community service and internship positions, of which 1 465 were community service medical practitioners.

According to the department of health spokesperson Popo Maja, the majority of the 1 465 community service doctor’s posts are funded by the department of health. The remainder would be compensated by a non-governmental organisation, the United States government’s Presidential Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (Pepfar).

“In our country’s efforts to achieve their target of 90:90:90 and hence epidemiological control of HIV, Pepfar will be funding 69 of these posts but they will be appointed by the department of health,” said Maja.

Pepfar is an initiative to address the global HIV/Aids epidemic and help save the lives of those suffering from the disease, primarily in Africa.

Maja said that the starting dates for the young graduates would be between January 2 and 15, but this may vary based on the date when the current incumbents exit the posts.

However, one of the young doctors told The Citizen a different story.

The doctor, who cannot be named because of fear of victimisation, said he was initially allocated to a municipality, but was told that the specific post would be available soon.

“That was in the middle of December and up until today [January 8] there is still no post. I have appealed my placement and my appeal was successful but the e-mail I received stated that there were no resources to give me a post,” he said.

He said his only option was to wait for the post which is located away from his family.

Failure to complete a year of community service bars healthcare workers from practicing, essentially meaning they would be unable to work in the medical field, due to the department’s failure to allocate them, or ensure they are employed.

“This is really stressful because community service is a wholly South African concept and if we are unable to be provided jobs then they should scrap it altogether. Essentially the department of health is violating our human rights by obstructing us from pursuing employment,” said the young doctor.

“Friends of mine who applied as regular applicants got posts that I applied for, even though they didn’t even have it as an option. Therefore it is easy to see that the algorithm wasn’t really applied,” he added.

According to posts on the Junior Doctors Association of South Africa (Judasa) telegram chat group, several doctors face similar problems.

They complain that the placement algorithm on the department’s website, used to assign them to posts, was flawed, as several were placed in facilities to which they had not applied.

gcinan@citizen.co.za

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