Negotiations for doctors' salaries to be concluded urgently

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Health is optimistic that negotiations in the Bargaining Council in a bid to end the ongoing doctors' strike will be concluded as a matter of urgency.

Last week, medical doctors in some Gauteng hospitals went on strike action, demanding to be paid the remuneration that was committed according to the Occupational Specific Dispensation (OSD) for this sector.

"We believe the processes are going to be concluded as a matter of urgency, this will once more demonstrate our commitment to work-place democratic processes of finding challenges that confront our professionals," said Health Minister Barbara Hogan.

In a bid to end the doctors' strike, the department will during the negotiations today, present a set of proposals to the Bargaining Council for consideration by labour representatives, who will then go back to their constituencies for further consideration and mandate.

Concerned Minister Hogan noted that the strike came at a time when negotiations to resolve the remuneration issues and general working conditions of all health care professionals were taking place in the Bargaining Council.

She said the health workers are being represented by their recognised legitimate body, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) at the Bargaining Council.

The strike, which started last week, has led to the disruption of essential services in a number of hospitals including a death reported in the North West.

Minister Hogan said a pregnant woman in the North West died last week after being brought to the hospital with birth-related complications and was not attended to as the doctors were on strike.

"The incident has led to the dismissal of a doctor, we'll try to establish the circumstances behind her death," Minister Hogan said.

The department said the striking health care workers should explain to the nation why they were taking part in illegal strikes when there was a negotiation process currently underway to resolve exactly the same issues that they claim to be the cause of their strike.

"How do they justify abandoning patients and in the process exposing them to extreme danger," asked the minister, acknowledging doctors who are not on strike for their patience, professionalism and commitment to their oath.

"We call on them to allow the process of negotiation currently underway and assure them of the speedy resolution of this matter, I hope the Doctors Forum will also engage in the Bargaining Council.

"We would also like to thank those private sector doctors who are volunteering their services and time to assist in those hospitals that have been negatively affected by the strike," the minister said.

Meanwhile, Minister Hogan said the department has requested the use of the South African Defence Force medical services to help in state hospitals should the doctors continue with the strike.

Currently patients, who are considered to be in a critical condition, are being moved to other hospitals, which are not participating in the strike.