Kwazulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo - a medical doctor by profession - put his money where his mouth is and worked as a doctor for the entire Easter Monday.
Fed up with getting no response to adverts for medical staff at St Appolinaris Hospital in Creighton, Dhlomo and seven medical doctors volunteered their services at the hospital yesterday.
"We have advertised close to seven posts for medical doctors in this hospital but when people come for interviews they never come back. When I heard that the only three permanent staff members could not take a holiday, I asked some of my colleagues to accompany me to provide a service to the suffering people of Creighton.
"I really wish people would understand and work with us in getting people committed to serving the underserved," he said yesterday.
The hospital has only three permanent doctors who have to spread the workload over the day and night.
Yesterday Dhlomo and his team of volunteer doctors gave the hard-working doctors time off. Dhlomo put on his doctor's coat and began examining patients in the outpatients department, where it was work as usual and not a public holiday for the rural public requiring medical help.
Dhlomo said the rural terrain of the province, as well as the migration of health workers, was taking its toll on rural hospitals.
"In most cases health workers choose not to work in the rural areas of the province due to the lack of infrastructure such as banks, shopping malls and roads. Many doctors do not want to leave their city homes. Instead, they choose to go abroad or starve the rural communities of their important skills."
The department's revitalisation programme includes the payment of OSD, rural and hospitality allowances as an incentive to lure doctors back to rural hospitals. Recently, the department lifted the moratorium on all critical health posts in the province.
"The department has also beefed up and refurbished the rural accommodation facilities for doctors. At Hlabisa, for example, we built a tennis court and a swimming pool for the doctors," said health spokesperson Chris Maxon.