ANC youths back doctors

ANGRY state doctors have found a powerful political ally in the ANC Youth League, which says it is throwing its weight behind a planned strike by the medicos for better pay.

The ANCYL has now said it will support the ongoing wage dispute by the doctors, with league president Julius Malema saying "the issue of doctors is not open for debate, they must get salary increases".

State doctors threaten to go on strike tomorrow unless the government meets their demand for a 50percent wages increase - as opposed to government's 5percent offer. They also plan to march in Pretoria to the Department of Health.

Briefing the media at the ANC's Luthuli House headquarters, Malema said the league would join the doctors' strike if the government did not respond to their plight.

"We are going to join these doctors as the ANC Youth League because we don't understand why (their case has not been resolved). And the profession of doctors is degenerating in such a way that it is quite unacceptable."

Malema said the league would talk to the ANC national executive committee this weekend and demand a report from Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi explaining why his department had not resolved the strike.

"Why should a minister acknowledge that doctors are not paid properly but there is no increase?"

Malema said doctors were within their rights to strike - despite emergency workers signing an oath barring them from striking.

"They have reached a point where they must now stand up." The department says healthcare services "will continue" at public hospitals despite the planned strike tomorrow.

Department spokesman Fidel Hadebe said yesterday that the government would consider activating "a range of interventions" based on the impact of the strike.

"The right to access healthcare is a constitutional and legal one that we take very seriously."

The doctors' spokesperson Lebogang Phahladira said there would be buses from North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo to transport striking doctors to Pretoria.

He said about 5000 doctors would join the march and "only a few" would remain at work to attend to emergency cases.

"We will attend to emergency cases only, like accidents and pregnant women."