Just what the doctor ordered

THE government has buckled underto pressure from public service doctors and boosted some salaries by more than 50percent.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday tabled a revised offer for public service doctors, which is expected to end three months of wildcat strikes across the country that have crippled services at some hospitals.

The new offer will adjust salaries for all public service doctors within a single pay structure that will come into effect next month - if accepted by the doctors' union.

"The main objectives of [the occupation-specific dispensation] was to have a single salary structure for all professionals according to their ranks, and not according to where they find themselves either in institutions or provinces," the minister said. "This does not mean rural allowances are being done away with."

The government has proposed that interns, the most junior doctors, will receive increases of between 31percent and 53percent, with the lower grades getting the biggest boost. This means their salaries will jump from between R205604 and R239744 a year to R314023.

Doctors doing community service will get increases of 9,8percent to 18,9percent, moving from between R330226 and R357524 a year to R392599. Registrars, qualified doctors who are completing advanced studies while working, will go up from between R330226 and R446853 a year to R528770, an increase of 18,3percent to 60,1percent.

Principal specialists will move from R769271 to R962174, a 25,1percent increase. Chief specialists, usually professors, will jump from R932399 to R1,2million, a 29percent increase.

Motsoaledi said the revised proposal would cost the government more than R1 billion over the remaining nine months of this financial year.

"This means we have doubled the amount from our previous offer, which would have cost us R500million. Treasury was happy to give us the money since we know that the medical profession is underpaid," he said.

Doctors have been staging sporadic strikes since April, demanding a 50percent across-the-board pay increase and the immediate implementation of the occupation-specific dispensation (OSD) promised in 2007. They also wanted the OSD adjustments backdated to last July when it was promised. The salary adjustments would not be backdated.

"The revised offer, if accepted by the doctors' union, would come into effect on July 1. The only other money that would be paid out is the compensation for delaying implementation of OSD and it would be a once-off payment," he said.