Intern doctors ask UN, WHO to help them get work
UNEMPLOYED South African intern doctors who have been left in limbo for six months, have taken their concerns to the UN and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
This week, one of the doctors addressed a letter to the secretary general of the UN and the director general of the WHO asking for urgent intervention on behalf of more than 90 Durban interns.
Last year, the WHO launched Global Strategy for Human Resources: Workforce 2030, which aims to train 40 million doctors and health- care workers worldwide. Eighteen million need to be in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The unemployed interns want to know how the government expects to achieve this goal when it cannot provide jobs for them. Su-Jana Basson, who wrote the letter on behalf of the intern doctors, said in her letter:
“I am afraid that South Africa cannot afford to pay its own doctors – yet we are taking in more medical students at universities but once we qualify, we cannot work as the government is not employing us. It has been six-and-a-half months now since we have been unemployed and our Department of Health keeps promising that they will place us but we believe the minister is lying and is not being honest with us. We believe that there are no funds to pay us,” said Basson.
She said it was not only qualified doctors without work, but also nurses, physio- therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and other allied health-care professionals.
Independent Media has seen a list of more than 200 unemployed health-care workers nationally.
“Yet our hospitals are so short staffed and health professionals who are currently employed are overworked and working under extremely stressful conditions. We would like to know why there is a crisis as we were trained to be doctors and now we cannot use our skills to work in our communities,” Basson wrote.
Dr Rufaro Chatora, the WHO representative for South Africa, received Basson’s letter and said, globally, issues related to production, employment and utilisation of the health workforce remained a priority issue that needed to be addressed if the health sustainable development goal targets are to be met.
He said the 2030 workforce commission proposes ambitious solutions to ensure the world has the right number of health workers with the right skills and in the right places.
However, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said no doctor could claim to be unemployed, as all interns had been placed.
He said doctors had rejected working in certain areas and then claimed to be unemployed.
“If they tell me they are unemployed, 141 doctors are needed in Limpopo and I can send them there tomorrow, but the problem is that they do not want to go and work in those areas. Most of them give reasons such as marriage and religion,” said Motsoaledi.
He also said the department had verified the lists circulating and that most on the lists were employed while some had rejected offers made to them.
He said a second list of foreign unemployed doctors had been circulating but the department was not compelled to employ foreign doctors as most of the ministers of their countries had given Motsoaledi instructions for them to return to train in their own countries because they were needed in their home countries.