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Budget woes mean SA doctors jobless while hospitals battle Covid

Scores of newly-qualified junior doctors and hundreds of other medical staff unable to find placements.
Image: Shutterstock

While Michelle Cerfontyne was completing her medical training last year, the Covid-19 pandemic overwhelmed South Africa’s understaffed public hospitals, so the young doctor thought she would get a job easily.

But when she started applying for posts prospectively in September, there seemed to be no vacancies.

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Since then, a second wave of the coronavirus in Africa’s most industrialised country has far outstripped the first, hitting 20 000 daily cases earlier this month and bringing hospitals closer to breaking point.

Yet Cerfontyne’s 10 job applications have all been rejected. Nine did not give her an interview.

Cerfontyne is one of scores of newly-qualified junior doctors and hundreds of other medical staff unable to find placements, despite staff shortages in a pandemic that has killed more than 40 000 people, the highest toll in Africa.

“I’m not used to sitting … doing nothing,” she said. “The fact that there’s a global pandemic and I’m just sitting at home doesn’t go hand in hand with the Hippocratic oath that I took to always help people in need,” Cerfontyne added, referring to the 2,500-year-old pledge new doctors swear to uphold.

Nearly 200 doctors, 325 nurses and 200 other health workers are unemployed, according to Hire our Medical Heroes, a campaign pressuring the government to take on more South African medical staff to tackle the pandemic.

A Department of Health spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Budget constraints

Alex Van Den Heever, an expert in the administration of public health at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, said budget constraints explain the anomaly. The government is trying to rein in its huge national wage bill, “so there will be an emphasis on freezing posts,” including medical ones.

“There’s a mismatch,” he said. “The crisis picks up but there isn’t enough flexibility in the budget system to release funds for sessional doctors.”

Tshepile Tlali, interim chair of the Junior Doctors’ Association (Judasa), said most unemployed doctors finished their community service but were not offered permanent jobs.

This includes Cerfontyne, who, when she finished her training at a hospital in the northern province of Mpumalanga, found they had no places to keep her on.

“Everyone is sold this dream that a doctor will always be able to find employment,” she said. “I’m the sole provider at home (and) my parents … are elderly with lots of medical bills.”

Throughout the pandemic, doctors, nurses, medics and their unions have complained of being understaffed and made to work long shifts.

“All the doctors I know complain of being overwhelmed,” said Faith Ntozakhe, a doctor who finished her training at St. Andrew’s Hospital in Kwazulu-Natal province in December, but was not kept on. She, too, has failed to find work since.

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Well, ‘they’ can bail out SAA but ‘they’ can’t give money to hospitals to combat Covid? Cigarette and liquor tax could have paid for medical personnel. Not so?

But this ANC government can find R10 billion for bankrupt SAA! Sadly our doctors will end up leaving for Australia and the U.K where they are wanted and valued.

..and yet the ANC can find hundreds of millions to support Cuban doctors in SA doing what our own young doctors can do?

What a sick state of affairs

And as I remember, 1 nurse at a cost of some R 420 000 pa.

How many waves of blatant ANC corruption did South Africa suffer since 1994 ? What we see here are the results.

Well, between the various State Departments, Municipalities, Parastatals and Tenderpreneurs, they loot nothing short of an entire GDP every half decade or so

And then they use transformation and BEE to cover up for their shortcomings, blaming WMC

Imagine where this country would have been if our ANC run Government were transparent honest folk?

Instead of being an example to the world like our peaceful transition back in the day, now reduced to the laughing stock of the world, ranked up there as “the most corrupt”

Yet the uneducated go back in their droves to vote for them, in turn using our tax money to woo them with grants, subsidies and more grants

It’s a crying shame

This is the same ANC that can’t run a spaza shop and wants to introduce NHI.

Covid-19 has shown that the ANC is a crime against humanity through its corruption and mismanagement.

Its like the anc and “the chair” is running a scorched earth policy.

Everything is being destroyed. Everything. Al this is done while the populations free movement is being restricted. The hospitals are like concentration camps.

If they destroy the country nobody would want it so they wont loose power.

and they have study loans to pay.

Presumably Cuban Doctors are BEE !!
Oh I forgot : they are comrades !!!
Soon we will be seeing ANC Witchdoctors !!

When the socialist regime runs out of money they fiest try austerity measures to pacify the lenders. The doctors and nurses sit at home, unemployed.

Then, when the socialist regime realises that they will lose the next election, they abandon austerity measures, employ all the idle doctors and nurses who then sit idle at hospitals without any medicine or equipment as the hyperinflation destroys the supply lines.

For a socialist regime, there is no “get out of jail free” card. Socialism has a cost, and that cost is measured in lives.

SA is only 14th on the list for the most deaths from Covid in the world. But we are only 4000 behind Argentina and doing our best to improve the position up the ladder !!

Sensei you are correct all political decisions and corruption have a cost measured in lives. The trouble is that the lot of the majority of the people who die as a result of corruption and poor political decisions do not hit the newspapers and therefore the politicians do not feel any pain for their actions.

These doctors are not willing to work in the poorer (majority) areas of this country. They want to work in luxury private hospitals where there is no space.

Discovery and Netcare even tried to create vouchers for online consultations however the price was too low and thus the doctors are not using it as they charge massive cash consultation fees.

There is more than enough demand for these doctors to help as a Sole Proprietor and go into the townships where there are enough jobs.

They complain like elitists

That is BLATANTLY untrue !! Give facts !!!

You are an ignoramus. Private hospitals do not employ doctors. Only doctors with their own private practices can work there. The unemployed doctors and nurses in fact not only want to work in state hospitals, it is their ONLY option as they cannot afford opening private practices. If you have a few million lying around to help some doctors to start their own practices, please step up to the plate. Otherwise, stop talking.

Is it just the ANC that’s so ignorant and incompetent? – the only reason methinks why they have been screwing everything up since 1994 is because,they are voted in every time, by their core voters – that’s how they roll – ”birds of a feather, they flock together!

Don’t expect old ”colonial” in Africa in 2021 – the only wave here seems to the Corona Virus, and it’s also not very welcome?

There is NO shortage of money in the budget. Just the deliberate and malevolent miss-allocation of the priorities to suit the mischievous aims of a dishonest and incompetent leadership.

It’s a MAJOR failing of our constitution that it does NOT provide explicit leadership guidelines as to how public representatives must behave.

For example, all politicians should be forced to use ONLY government-provided services. If they find the services inadequate, then it’s THEM that are in the prime position to fix the problems.

Politicians must be the FIRST to eat their own dog food.

So… No private hospitals or private schools or private security etc.

And as for immediately freeing up some funds for the MUCH more important MEDICS, can I suggest a temporary, but COMPLETE, shutdown of an institution that has proven to be a complete waste of oxygen during the Covid shutdown. An institution full of EXPENSIVE self-important individuals who have made MINIMAL contribution during this time.

Yep, folks, the folks in Parliament – with exorbitant R1m+ salaries and luxurious perks the taxpayers losing their jobs left, right, and centre, can only dream of…

… Should DONATE their salaries to fund the people we REALLY need.

That’s what a TRUE patriot – and genuine “servant-of-the-people” would VOLUNTEER to do.

Sad but these young doctors should be encouraged to save money while doing their community service so that when they finish they can open their own medical practice. Start by offering only consultations, no need for dispensing medications as the likes of shoprite and clicks have pharmacies.

My Daughter is one of them !! Thanks Moneyweb for blocking my other posts.

More than a little irony in this situation. A blatant contradiction really.

So, the New Monetary Theorists take control of the World Economy band give the nod to infinite money printing, but the local government cannot man the cannons on the Health frigate by accessing these “unlimited” funds and employing the necessary resources?

And everyone else cowers away inside under threat of arrest. Lockdowns are now proving to be hopelessly unable to make any difference to the spread of viruses.

The writing is on the wall- it is not the government who will pay for the hopeless errors- tying down their hatchets early to keep their pie in one piece while the banks prepare for the inevitable credit crunch and asset grab that shall surely follow.

This is the brand of US capitalism in motion every croney enjoys!

“ Lockdowns are now proving to be hopelessly unable to make any difference to the spread of viruses“

Awesome line; although I strongly sense you viewed this very early on in the decision by the ANC to lockdown economic activity

The ANC is the enemy of people unless you are a privileged taxi driver.

Wasnt the initial lockdown (21 days) to ready hospitals for the swarm of infections and patients? This should have been sorted then!!

End of comments.

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