Doctors crippled by NHI pilot project failure

Doctors crippled by NHI pilot project failure.
Doctors crippled by NHI pilot project failure.
Image: STOCK

Scores of doctors who were ditched by the government's flagship National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot programme and moved to provinces have been left in limbo after they were not paid for two months.

More than 200 doctors who worked on the project had their contracts not renewed in March, leaving many in despair after they quit their full-time jobs to join the project. But for those who were granted new job opportunities by several provinces since then, the past two months have been a nightmare.

They have been unable to pay their bonds, car instalments and children's school fees. Many of them who spoke to Sowetan about their frustrations yesterday requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.

A 32-year-old Gauteng doctor said there were about 40 doctors in the province who are affected. He said those who were paid through a third party (Foundation for Professional Development) have not been paid for two months.

"We received an e-mail saying there has been delays in the contracting phase and that there are no guarantees that we will be paid by month end. The challenges is that some doctors quit their jobs to work full-time on this. We have lost hope that the project will be working in the future."

In Eastern Cape, 20 doctors in the OR Tambo region said they were frustrated and were now sitting at home. "Our debit orders are bouncing and we no longer know what stories to tell the banks when they call us.

"We have not been working for two months but no one is willing to tell us what is happening. We have families to take care of but we can't because we are unemployed," a 30-year-old doctor said.

A Limpopo doctor said there were 33 doctors in the province whose contracts were not renewed. "We were promised that we will sign new contracts in April but that has not happened. We were requested to come and join the NHI programme but now we have been left in limbo. We are married people who have families to take care of," he said.

Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the province recently signed contracts with some of the doctors who worked on NHI.

National Health Department spokesman Popo Maja said processes were followed to inform the doctors that their contracts were coming to an end. "They were informed three months before their contracts expired so as to give them ample time to look for opportunities."

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