Kingdom Mabuza, Elisha Molefe and Sipho Masombuka
The North West government has fired 33 doctors who went on strike at Bophelong Hospital yesterday.
Doctors in various hospitals throughout the country are striking in protest at their meagre salaries and poor working conditions.
The fired doctors are the first casualties of the industrial action which started at Dr George Mukhari Hospital near Tshwane last Thursday. The action, which has placed the lives of patients at risk, has also affected Tembisa, Jubilee and Odi hospitals since Monday.
Hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo were reported to have also joined the action.
Brian Mabazo, spokesperson for the disgruntled doctors at Bophelong Hospital, said doctors were gathering at the hospital main hall to discuss matters that concerned doctors around the country when the management surprised them with dismissal letters.
"We were given 25 dismissal letters by the management and eight more were later served to those who were not in the meeting," he said.
Doctors in the affected hospital are refusing to attend to patients in wards and emergency cases.
Critical patients at Dr Mukhari, Jubilee, Odi and Tembisa hospitals were re-routed to Steven Biko Academicand Kalafong hospitas, in Pretoria and Atteridgeville.
The management of the hospitals yesterday handed out letters instructing doctors on strike to go back to work or face disciplinary action.
Sowetan has reliably learnt that the threatening letters were written at the instruction of the Department of Health.
Doctors are demanding the implementation of occupational specific dispensation.
The under-staffed doctors are also complaining about the huge patient burden.
One of the striking doctors at Dr Mukhari Hospital, Dr Mpho Mohlala, said the hospital had shut down and all doctors were on strike.
"We are aware of the legal implications and repercussions of our action as essential services servants, but we feel that our basic human rights are being trampled on because we do not have avenues to voice our grievances," he said.
SA Medical Association (Sama) chairperson Professor Mac Lukhele warned the health departments to stop firing striking doctors.
"Departments that fire doctors are making things worse for the delicate negotiation process. We are strongly against the dismissal of doctors," said Lukhele.