MEDIC ALERT

CRUNCH TIME: Doctors who go on strike will be suspended, says the Health Professions Council of South Africa. © Unknown.
CRUNCH TIME: Doctors who go on strike will be suspended, says the Health Professions Council of South Africa. © Unknown.

PUBLIC service doctors have threatened to walk out en masse if the government's revised salary offer comes in at less than the 50percent they are demanding.

PUBLIC service doctors have threatened to walk out en masse if the government's revised salary offer comes in at less than the 50percent they are demanding.

The Health Department is expected to table a new occupation specific dispensation (OSD) for doctors today. Sources close to the negotiations say the government is expected to offer up to 15percent, an increase from the earlier 2 to 5percent, depending on grade, which the doctors have rejected.

Lebogang Phahladira, president of the South African Registrars' Association, which has organised wildcat strikes, said yesterday that if the government did not meet their demands today, its doctors would embark on the "mother of all strikes".

"We are hoping it would not come to that, but if it does there is no turning back. Once they have tabled their offer we would have to report to our members. We would then decide on the way forward [a strike] and when it should happen.

"The strike would have to be well coordinated because we expect all public service doctors to be part of it," he said.

Doctors have been on sporadic strikes since April, demanding a 50percent pay increase and the immediate implementation of the occupation-specific dispensation promised in 2007.

Services at the main hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal were disrupted on Monday when hundreds of doctors staged an illegal strike.

Doctors in other provinces who were expected to join the strike are waiting for today's announcement.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa, which regulates all doctors, said it would suspend or deregister any doctors who went on strike, despite the severe shortage of clinical staff in the country.

Spokesperson Bertha Scheepers said the council could only take action against doctors if the public, patients or hospitals lodged complaints against them.

"We are urging people to report negligence as a result of the illegal strike. The council will investigate and if found guilty, doctors will be stripped of their licences to practise."

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