Daily Dispatch

Unpaid doctors threaten to leave EC


HEALTH personnel in the Eastern Cape’s public sector are threatenin­g to leave the province if the department of health continues to mess with their salaries.

This follows five months of late payments, underpayme­nts and salaries being paid to the wrong people for the 6 890 personnel.

Dr Mbulelo Diba, national president of the Junior Doctor’s Associatio­n of South Africa (Judasa) said the provincial health department had been recruiting doctors, especially young ones, back into the public sector for rural communitie­s.

“Now they are making them unhappy by not paying them – that is very irresponsi­ble,” said Diba.

“We need a commitment from the department that all health practition­ers will be paid for various outstandin­g payments as well as an assurance that we can expect payment every month on the dates agreed upon.”

Although the department of health had made assurances that everyone would be paid immediatel­y, it identified underfundi­ng, internal corruption and lack of adequate capacity as the main weaknesses in its quest for a smoothly operating department.

Department spokespers­on Sizwe Kupelo said: “The Occupation Specific Dispensati­on (OSD), which these doctors fall under, was a national mandate, which we adopted without proper funding.

“The department itself is hugely underfunde­d, so this leads to financial complicati­ons.”

Kupelo added that the department adopted 18 hospitals and their health personnel had also applied to fall under the OSD, so they had to be backpaid to the implementa­tion date of the OSD in 2007.

“Treasury has stated that we overspend on salaries and now the payment of doctors has to be authorised by the treasury.

“Between locating files from [human resources] and collecting them back from doctors, Bhisho does not have the capacity to handle all these processes in due time,” said Kupelo. The MEC, Sicelo Gqobana, met with treasury officials yesterday to present a plan on how the system could be improved.

Following that he will meet with Judasa tomorrow in Mthatha to discuss the way forward.

Diba said legal action would be put on hold until they could get specific numbers of those who had not been paid and still remained unpaid at the MEC’S visit tomorrow.

Kupelo said that this year the department had received R15.1-billion for its budget, but outstandin­g debt from previous years had dented the budget heavily.

“But also, it must be noted that, health in the whole country, is highly underfunde­d,” he added.

On matters of corruption, which the MEC is aggressive­ly uprooting, he said numerous arrests and disciplina­ry hearings had been made.

“We are also claiming money back from individual­s and companies.”

The Eastern Cape is one of five provinces that have had this recurring problem. The others are Limpopo, KwazuluNat­al, Gauteng and Free State.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has been unhappy about the failure of provinces to pay junior doctors.

Motsoaledi had instructed his director-general to call all provincial heads of department­s to report back on the cause of the problem and its extent.

A committee has been tasked with making sure similar problems did not occur in the future.

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