Doctors are a vital component of the government's mandate to deliver an efficient healthcare service at public hospitals.
They provide an invaluable service under conditions unworthy of their sacrifices and status of their profession.
Small wonder that the health sector has experienced a steady brain drain of doctors to countries such as England, Australia and New Zealand in recent years.
Raising this topic is a report in this newspaper yesterday highlighting the problem of doctors who moonlight at their private practices when they should be attending patients at Mpumalanga's Barberton Hospital.
This malpractice has contributed to backlogs at the hospital and scores of patients leaving without having been examined. These doctors first work at their private surgeries before reporting to the hospital.
While these shenanigans are unacceptable, they highlight a deeper problem. Inextricably linked to this is the historical problem of poor salaries paid to doctors at public hospitals.
The reality is that the government can no longer fudge the issue of doctors' paltry pay. It must intervene to solve a problem that compromises public healthcare delivery.
Failure to do so will only worsen the situation and put patients' lives at risk.