Doctors fear for their lives

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Gabi Khumalo

Pretoria - Dr Sekwaila Masenya is a young medical doctor at Helen Joseph Hospital, who is passionate about saving peoples' lives but recently when her shift starts, she wonders if she will return home alive.

Masenya's house, which is inside the hospital premises, has been burgled twice last year and the criminals left her with nothing, taking her furniture and clothing.

"Luckily I was not in the house on both occasions, but I always wonder what would have happened if the criminals found me in the house during the robbery ... I consider myself lucky because I was not hurt. Some of my colleagues have been raped," said Masenya, who is 25-years-old.

Masenya was among a group of doctors who went to the Union Buildings on Wednesday, demanding government beef up security at public hospitals.

"We just want the government to listen to us and treat this as a matter of urgency. You can't do your work properly if your life is in danger," she said.

In a memorandum presented at the Union Buildings, doctors noted that health professionals are the back bone of the health system and provide essential care, which every citizen is entitled to.

"Health professionals are entitled to a safe and secure working environment in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Bill of Rights; Section 27 of our Constitution," read the memorandum.

The demands include the immediate deployment of SA Police Service at all health facilities, termination of private security services through tendering processes, employment of armed security personnel, installation of electronic scanners and metal detectors at all hospital entry points as well as construction of concrete palisade fencing in all health care facilities.

South African Medical Association Chairperson, Dr Norman Mabasa, warned that the continuing failure to address this critical matter will result in an increased exodus of medical professionals from the public service, impacting on service delivery.

"We take our profession very serious and cannot keep quiet anymore. If government fails to respond to our concerns, more steps will be taken by medical practitioners," said Mabasa.

Junior Doctors Association of South Africa president, Dr Tende Makofane, said health professionals also deserve the same security like government officials in the Union Buildings.

"We are dealing with human lives and want protection from the SAPS not private security companies, we don't deal with 'tenderpreneurship'," said Makofane.

Eugene Mthethwa, who heads the Presidential Hotline, accepted the memorandum on behalf of President Jacob Zuma. He assured the marchers that their memorandum will be treated with the seriousness it deserves.

"We are also saddened by the situation and do understand. Our responsibility is to bring departments to respond to the issue. We will convene a meeting with all stakeholders, including your representatives in order to discuss these issues," Mthethwa said.

Mthethwa was also given a t-shirt with a picture of Dr Senzosenkosi Mkhize, who was stabbed to death by a patient last week at Mpumulanga's Middleburg Hospital.

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