Pretoria - The Department of Health has reiterated its commitment to improving the remuneration and general working conditions of doctors countywide.
The department said they have acknowledged the challenges facing health professionals and have put in place policies to strengthen the health system and to ensure health workers are happy.
"We (department) acknowledge the many challenges facing all health professionals including medical doctors, relating in particular to remuneration and the general working conditions.
"We have put in place a number of policies that seek to strengthen the health system by ensuring that health professionals have the confidence in the ability of the public health sector to provide them with a conducive environment to work in," the department said on Friday.
The department was responding to the strike action by medical doctors, which started in some Gauteng hospitals on Thursday, who were demanding to be paid their Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD).
The department said all remuneration issues are currently forming part of the OSD work that has to be completed in the Bargaining Chamber.
"The fact that no resolution has been reached on these matters have to do with its complexity, negotiations will commence shortly at the Bargaining Council and the department assisted by the Department of Public Service and Administration are committed to resolve this matter.
"Further, the department would like to avoid the repetition of mistakes that occurred last year when it implemented the OSD for nurses," the department said.
However, the department noted that it was regrettable for the doctors to embark on a premature illegal strike action, "which puts the lives of our patients at risk".
The department said it continues to engage with the South African Medical Association (SAMA), a body that represents the interests of the doctors to find ways of addressing these and other broader challenges facing the medical profession in public service.
"The department wishes to recommit itself to the negotiation process currently underway and the speedy resolution of this matter, equally, the department recommits itself to the ongoing bi-lateral engagement with the SAMA as has been happening thus far on broader health system issues."
As part of its plans to mitigate the impact of the strike, the department has put in place a number of contingency measures which include the continued functioning of the emergency services and the Intensive Care Units in all affected hospitals.
The department appealed to the striking doctors to give the soon-to-commence negotiations at the Bargaining Council a chance to succeed and assist in protecting the interests of the patients as demanded by the profession and the Constitution of the country.