strike not over!

THE doctor's strike in KwaZulu-Natal is far from over.

THE doctor's strike in KwaZulu-Natal is far from over.

Yesterday provincial doctors - under the banner of SA Doctors United - vowed that Thursday is D-Day for the province's health department to come up with "clear answers".

If this does not happen they will down tools on Friday. The rest of the doctors have also threatened to resume a national strike on July 24.

The organisation said the second wave of strike action will see more patients suffering and also accused the South African Medical Association of selling them out to Cosatu and the provincial government at a meeting last Thursday.

Spokesperson Cameron McIntosh said they had about 1000 members in KwaZulu-Natal.

"It is not only our region that will go on strike. We have support from other centres, including Western Cape and Mpumalanga.

"Sama cannot support public service doctors adequately while they also see to the needs of private sector doctors."

McIntosh said critical grievances were overlooked in the talks with the government.

"We went on strike to demand improvements to the public health service and the salaries of doctors. Two percent does not do it."

He said in the region 60percent of the doctors were expected to work as if there were no posts vacant.

He said it was disheartening that "patients will again be let down".

"We have no choice. The way in which this matter was handled is to also draw attention to the level of service conditions at state hospitals.

"Our demands are also about a better and improved service for all the patients."

Sama executive member Norman Mabasa said doctors were encouraged to speak directly with the government.

"We are encouraging public service doctors to present their case more eloquently to the government," Mabasa said. "Sama at no stage prevented doctors themselves from negotiating their salaries directly with the employer."

He said Sama always concurred that the two to five percent raise in salaries was "less than adequate when compared with the 50percent across-the-board request we made".

Mabasa said Sama encouraged doctors to unite and to "speak with one voice to the national government and provincial health MECs".

But state doctors are calling for radical changes of Sama.

Junior Doctors Association president Bandile Hadebe said there were proposals that had been tabled to Sama executive.

Sama represents private and public sector doctors. The Junior Doctors Association is an affiliate.

"Public sector doctors feel the leadership of Sama should be elected instead of being appointed," Hadabe said.

"People who have been appointed do not seem to understand what is happening on the ground."

"Our members want leaders they will elect and give mandates.

"The Sama structure does not make a distinction between public and private sector doctors, and yet challenges are hugely different."

He said if government failed to review the salary increase before July 24, doctors would embark on another massive strike.

"Between now and the July 24, each centre had been allowed to decide what action to take.

"I know for a fact that in Limpopo there is a decision to attend to emergency cases only," he said.

KwaZulu-Natal health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo was unavailable for comment yesterday.

But in full page advertisements, he indicated that at a meeting held with Cosatu and Sama several agreements were struck as well as that making it clear that the 276 doctors dismissed in KwaZulu-Natal will be unconditionally reinstated.

"All parties acknowledged that the pay of the doctors and the rest of the health officials were not satisfactory.

"This combined with the staff shortages and other conditions was placing a heavy burden on the shoulders of the doctors and other health officials."