Dis­pute at hospi­tal

The Rep - - NEWS - By Sonja Raasch

A DIS­PUTE be­tween doc­tors and Fron­tier Hospi­tal man­age­ment on the al­lo­ca­tion of du­ties and over­time pay­ment has re­sulted in con­cern over ser­vice de­liv­ery.

Man­age­ment con­firmed in a state­ment from the of­fice of CEO Sindiswa Ty­wabi that the is­sues had been re­ferred to the South African Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, but that no res­o­lu­tion had yet been forth­com­ing.

Ju­nior doc­tors had, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion re­ceived, in­di­cated in a let­ter to man­age­ment last month that con­cern ex­isted over the al­lo­ca­tion of du­ties. The sit­u­a­tion was that the doc­tors, work­ing in the ac­ci­dent and emer­gency wards, male and fe­male sur­gi­cal wards and the in­ten­sive care unit, had been told that they would also have to do theatre as­sist­ing du­ties when on call as from Septem­ber.

This ap­par­ently tran­spired af­ter spe­cial­ists or se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cers were in­formed that they would not be paid for over­time ex­ceed­ing 80 hours. The de­vel­op­ments had, ac­cord­ing to the doc­tors, raised con­cern that ser­vices would be com­pro­mised as the avail­able doc­tors would in­evitably have to leave a ward/s unat­tended at any one time. A doc­tor, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, con­firmed the sit­u­a­tion.

An­other source in­di­cated that spe­cial­ists were dis­sat­is­fied at not be­ing paid for over­time ex­ceed­ing 80 hours per month. Some spe­cial­ists were work­ing up to 192 hours in over­time. As such pay­ment of over­time was not avail­able, sur­gi­cal ju­niors were hav­ing to work with­out se­nior cover on some days. Ex­tra money was be­ing spent on trans­fer­ring pa­tients to other hos­pi­tals to al­le­vi­ate the load.

In the man­age­ment state­ment, it was in­di­cated that doc­tors had to per­form over­time to en­sure ser­vices on a 24-hour ba­sis. A short­age of health pro­fes­sion­als ex­isted in line with global trends with doc­tors at Fron­tier com­pen­sated for 64-80 hours of over­time. The hospi­tal had a min­i­mum of two doc­tors on call ev­ery night with only one doc­tor in each depart­ment af­ter hours and a sec­ond doc­tor – a spe­cial­ist – avail­able for as­sis­tance. While ju­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cers were paid to per­form above 80 hours over­time when needed, spe­cial­ists were not com­pen­sated for work­ing over 80 hours due to min­i­mal con­tact with the pa­tient. This was be­ing re­viewed at na­tional level.

The spe­cial­ists had in­di­cated that they were no longer will­ing to per­form above 80 hours of over­time, with meet­ings with man­age­ment fail­ing to re­solve the prob­lem. The se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cers/spe­cial­ists in the sur­gi­cal depart­ment had also in­di­cated that they would not per­form any over­time be­yond 64 hours which would af­fect the qual­ity of ser­vices.

Ju­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cers were now on call on cer­tain days with­out a sec­ond (a spe­cial­ist) as back up.

Pa­tients in need of spe­cial­ist in­ter­ven­tion were be­ing sent to Frere Hospi­tal in East Lon­don.

Man­age­ment in­di­cated that Sama had es­tab­lished a com­mit­tee in the hospi­tal to ad­dress the is­sues, but a meet­ing with man­age­ment had not yet been held.

“Pa­tients’ lives are not at risk as ter­tiary hos­pi­tals pro­vide a safety net for the smaller hos­pi­tals and pa­tients are up-re­ferred for fur­ther man­age­ment.”

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