Seven doctors win case against Limpopo health department

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Seven Limpopo doctors have won a court case against the provincial department of health, challenging its decision to terminate their contracts.

The seven, identified as doctors Motlokwe Koma, Khomotso Mohlala, Matome Ramare, Amukelani Rikhotso, Mary Mudau, Katlego Masemola and Lefentse Mogano, sought the intervention of the court after the department terminated their contracts before they could finish their community service work.

The group had entered into an agreement with the department, which had paid for their bursaries at universities, that they would work for a period of five years before pursuing other avenues. According to the agreement, if the doctors worked for less than a period of five years, the department had a responsibility to recoup the money from wherever they would be working.

On December 27 2018, the department issued a letter dated December 20 terminating their services. And the medicos felt that it was a breach of the contract they had.

Their lawyer, advocate Mphafolane Koma, said: “The decision by the department was unlawful and unjust, hence we decided to challenge the matter in court.  If the department had all the powers at all material times to force the new graduate doctors to work for it for the minimum duration of five years and failing which they would be followed everywhere they worked and had their monies deducted for many years until it was recovered with interest then we had to challenge the decision to terminate the contracts of my clients.”

The Limpopo High Court dismissed the case by the department and ordered it to pay the costs. “The decision taken by the department on December 20 2018 is hereby suspended pending the finalisation of the review application,” read the judgment in part, dated January 17 2019, as ordered by judge Gerrit Muller.

Koma said he was happy that sanity had prevailed and he believed his clients would be allowed back to work without any obstacles.

Approached for comment yesterday, department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said they had noted the judgment. “As the department we have taken note of the judgment and we duly respect the outcome of court processes. However, we are still studying that judgment in order to make a sound way forward,” he said.

According to Shikwambana, despite the court documents identifying the applicants as doctors, they were dentists. He said all doctors doing community service had been absorbed by the department.

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