Minister urges doctors to go back to work

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pretoria - Health Minister Barbara Hogan has called on doctors participating in an illegal strike to return to work.

She said those doctors who had embarked on an illegal strike demanding to be paid their Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) needed to participate in negotiations through organised formations.

"We are calling on all those doctors which have embarked on industrial action to recognise that there are laws and channels in place which all aggrieved workers can approach to resolve their problems," said the minister.

Speaking on Thursday in Pretoria, Minister Hogan said the department had placed a set of proposals for collective bargaining by the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.

"We believe the processes is going to be concluded as a matter of urgency. It will once more demonstrate our commitment to workplace democratic processes of finding solutions to challenges that confront our professionals," the minister said.

She explained that the aim of the OSD was to revamp the entire health sector in all categories to allow career progression rather then annual salaries.

The process of negotiations should have started last year in July but the OSD for nursed revealed that there are complex issues that has not been resolved.

The department acknowledged that there are challenges in concluding the negotiations within the specified time and this is regrettable.

"The OSD is a technically complex process and we wanted to ensure that the process we encountered with the OSD for nurses were not repeated with the OSD for doctors.

"Understandable this has resulted in dissatisfaction on the part of some employees," said Minister Hogan, adding that the department has been engaging with extensively with South African Medical Association throughout the period.

She said that patients' interest was a priority and that being forced to close hospitals was not helping the matter. "We need to do is to sit down and negotiate."

Ms Hogan said emphasizing that the rule of "no work no pay" would be enforced.

Gauteng hospitals have been most affected by the strike action, including Mamelodi Day Hospital and Dr George Mukhari in north Pretoria.

Doctors in East London Complex have reportedly threatened to join the strike, while in KwaZulu-Natal certain doctors have placed placards outside hospitals.

The strike has been suspended in the Free State and North West following negotiations with provincial departments.