Minister Phaahla’s response to unemployed doctors disingenuous

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
06 Feb 2024 in News

The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla’s response to the unemployment crisis facing doctors is not only disingenuous, it also shows that his Department does not have any solutions for the underlying causes of the crisis.

While it is true that budget cuts have a tremendous impact on the vacancy rate of medical professionals, diminishing funds would have less impact if money was not also looted through corruption by ANC affiliates, wasted through mismanagement by deployed ANC cadres, or wasted on ever-increasing medico-legal claims.

The truth is that the Department of Health has been blaming budget cuts for the vacancy rate for years but have done nothing to ensure that more money stays in the public health system by rooting out corruption and ineptitude.

Not a single company have been blacklisted by the Department following revelations of widespread corruption. The Department barely, if ever, institute consequence management.

And hospitals are drowning in medico-legal claims – hardly a wonder when fewer medical personnel have to work longer hours to treat more patients in subpar infrastructure with failing equipment and dwindling medical supplies. The situation will become even more dire once the destructive National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is forced upon the country and both the public and private health sectors implode.

In the end, it’s the doctors, nurses, and patients that bears the brunt, while Ministers and their comrades and cronies fly overseas for medical treatment.

The truth is that we cannot trust the Minister’s promises of 400 more jobs once finances have been reorganised. Last year, in answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA, he stated that the Department managed to secure placements for all 2 530 doctors in October already. By December, the story had changed, and 991 interns and community service applicants were not placed.

This year, the Minister in writing to me, stated that 379 applicants were not eligible; 204 applicants could only assume duties from March; 86 environmental health practitioners (EHPs), 8 physiotherapists, and 11 radiotherapists could not be placed due to insufficient funded posts although they are eligible; and 158 foreign national students who were not placed. No word on what happened to the other 142 applicants.

It the Minister cannot keep track of the number of community service and internship placements, we cannot trust that he or anyone in his Department is able to solve this ongoing crisis.

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