Central to their concerns was also the issues of the employment of unskilled personnel in senior positions and rampant corruption within the department.
Scores of medical doctors arriving in scrubs flooded the streets of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal on Monday, marching in protest against unemployment in the healthcare sector, countrywide.
The demonstration, which commenced outside UNISA on Langalibalele Street, saw medical practitioners from across the region converge to voice their discontent.
The doctors made their way to the offices of the KZN Department of Health, where they intended to deliver a memorandum outlining their grievances.
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Employment of unskilled personnel
Central to their concerns were the issues of the employment of unskilled personnel in senior positions and rampant corruption within the department.
Many doctors lamented the adverse effects of these problems on the quality of healthcare services provided to the community.
The protesters demanded accountability, transparency, and fair employment practices within the healthcare system.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo responded to the marchers, saying that the minister will announce plans for unemployed doctors tomorrow during the Sona 2024 debate.
“The issue that is going to come up in the debate tomorrow from the minister is a positive development with regard to the unemployed doctors.
“We want to say that we are together with you in the sense that doctors in the country have not become too many for the reasons that were not actually thought of [sic].
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“Universities in the country and the injection of other doctors who were coming in from Cuba has improved and increased the pool.
“Ten years ago universities were producing around 1 200 doctors. Now we are actually at a level of about twice that amount, thanks to the universities that have listened to the call of government to expand the intake.
“But also, thanks to the injection of the doctors who are coming in from Cuba, with that we now have a reasonably good pool to work with. But resources are scarce so we always have to knock on the door of finance minister.
“Over the past few days, there have been positive developments. So, lets give the minister a chance to make those announcements tomorrow,” he said.
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Protests in Tshwane
Last month, a number of qualified doctors affiliated to unions staged a protest in Tshwane, where they marched from Heartfelt Arena in Thaba Tshwane, Pretoria, to hand over a memorandum of demands to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla.
Dr Phaahla respond to the memorandum, stating that budgetary constraints and an excess of medical graduates in the field were the main reasons as to why they were not hiring more doctors.
“Provinces face challenges due to budgetary constraints, with increasing pressure on healthcare budgets. The rising cost of employment, including salaries, poses a significant challenge, making it difficult for provinces to allocate funds for new positions,” he explained.
He also said that the healthcare sector had complex salary structures, including overtime benefits, which contribute to a high salary bill.