THE DEPARTMENT’S REACTION TO DOCTOR’S CONCERN OUTRAGEOUS: THE HERALD

I’M really gobsmacked. Change the subject and the underlying causes will go away, seems to be the theme. Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the education MEC in Limpopo did it (“NGOs persevere, schools minister digs in”, June 26), the Eastern Cape education department has done so on numerous occasions and then even the national government and now the health department have done it.

The threats by Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana and Dr Siva Pillay issued to doctors ring hollow and are more a reaction out of embarrassment than anything else.

They can threaten all they want, but this does not detract from the fact that there is a crisis in the health sector (“Hospital staff crisis ‘ignored’ by EC officials”, June 26). They can even dismiss these doctors, but even this will not solve the problem.

The doctors have stated quite clearly that every attempt was made to resolve the crisis – they obviously wrote to the health department, they then wrote to the premier of the Eastern Cape and even the national minister of health – all to no avail. Wow! They have shown remarkable restraint.

The health professionals working in the public sector are there serving the health needs of the poor. They have decided that the interests of the poor can best be served by working in state hospitals.

They could so very easily have been working in private practice and avoided working under these conditions.

The politicians and their underlings in their respective departments are not interested in the health of the poor, they are there merely to serve their own interests. Neither Gqobana nor Pillay has refuted any of the doctors’ allegations.

The poor and the destitute are the only people who are going to suffer. Gqobana and Pillay, who by the way worked in private practice and was at the same time a member of the South African Communist Party (what are the policies and practices of the SACP in this regard?), will hopefully subject themselves to treatment at a state hospital when, and if needed.

Let us hope then that they do not need operations, because it does not seem that any anaesthetist will be available. Let’s hope they do not suffer any burns or need plastic surgery or have any cardiac problems.

Let us hope none of their children (or family members’ children) needs hospital treatment in Port Elizabeth. And, remember, they have to wait their turn in the queues as from 5.30am and go back the next day to the hospital pharmacy where they will again find themselves in a long queue.

This matter could so very easily have been resolved. Allow the HR department of the Eastern Cape health department to show the advertisements placed for the vacant funded posts and the respective appointment made in the hospital departments mentioned by the doctors.

Show the poor the applications made for additional staff. This is their duty as employers.

Allay the fears of the poor and destitute by showing the “political” connection between the doctors and the “senior managers” in Bhisho who have carried out these “dastardly deeds”.

The reaction by the health department is outrageous, to say the very least. The health system in the Nelson Mandela metro has collapsed because of a lack of personnel.

Does that constitute a decision to suspend services? And, as for “putting the department into disrepute”, the death of infants at an East London hospital did much worse, the ailing hospital services and the non-appointment of staff have done so – certainly not a press release by the doctors.

John Cupido, DA shadow MEC for Health

Bhisho