Drive to attract private doctors
Mpumalanga MEC for health, William Lubisi, has embarked on a crusade to lure private doctors to help his department deliver health services to people.
There is a huge shortage of doctors, many of whom left Mpumalanga for better pay in other provinces. Mpumalanga has fewer than 700 medical doctors. One doctor is expected to service about 5000 people.
Low rates and inadequate infrastructure were some of the complaints private doctors cited at two-day meetings held in Ermelo and Witbank.
Mpumalanga doctors do not receive the same salaries and incentives as their colleagues with the same qualifications in provinces such as Gauteng or the Western Cape.
Last week, the department redeployed doctors from smaller provincial hospitals to Rob Ferreira, Witbank, Ermelo, Themba and Mapulaneng to do overtime work, in an effort to alleviate the problem of doctor shortages.
The DA said this patchwork would not solve the problem, but would instead put more patients and doctors at risk.
"The department failed to negotiate satisfactory compensation packages with last year's community service doctors, who have now left the province in search of greener pastures," said DA spokesman, Anthony Bernadie.
He said people in the vicinity of the smaller hospitals would be put at risk because there will be no doctors to attend to them should they require urgent medical attention.
Lubisi attributed the problem to a change in syllabus.
"The problem is perpetuated by the fact that the internship period for newly-qualified doctors has been extended to a two-year programme instead of the usual one year.
"This results in a crisis because no new community service doctors are entering the provincial health system," he said.