Take care of the doctors

I have worked at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital for almost 35 years and been proud to be associated with this institution, the largest of its kind in the world.

I have worked at Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital for almost 35 years and been proud to be associated with this institution, the largest of its kind in the world.

In the late 1980s, during the apartheid regime, we protested the appalling conditions experienced by our patients and embarrassed the former government to allow privately sponsored ward additions to be built. This ensured that patients would no longer have to sleep on the floor, under and between beds. It was a proud moment in our history.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994 we have continued to experience many problems preventing us from providing quality healthcare.

In the spirit of patient advocacy, the staff have continued to raise these issues at all official levels. Sadly, progress has been slow.

It is important to state that, throughout the years of protest, patients have never been used as "bargaining chips" in protest action. We have never withdrawn our services in an attempt to force the authorities to accede to our demands.

In the past few weeks there have been reports of unrest and protest action by doctors at a number of public hospitals.

In some, doctors have actually gone on strike, leading to closure of these hospitals. The issue at stake has been the delay in the implementation of the Occupational Specific Dispensation. The intention is to improve the remuneration packages of doctors in the public sector and to provide better career paths for staff.

The dispensation was to have been implemented on July 1 last year. Almost 10 months later, nothing has happened.

Although there have been reports that doctors at Chris Hani-Baragwanath have been on strike, this is not the case.

A series of meetings have been held but at the end of the day the consensus view has been that we must uphold our professional duty towards our vulnerable patients and maintain service delivery.

However, this does not let the government off the hook.

We, therefore, call on the government to rapidly resolve the dispensation issue.

Professor KRL Huddle, Johannesburg

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