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Stand up for your rights

20 January 2004 Angelo Coppola

Doctors will march on Parliament on February 6, to express their dissatisfaction with the alarming state of the public health care delivery system, the unacceptable working conditions of doctors in the public sector, and current and proposed legislation t

The South African Medical Association (SAMA)-organised march aims to highlight the plight of doctors who find it increasingly difficult to act in the best interests of patients due to major shortcomings in the public health sector.

 

"This includes poor conditions of service, inadequate facilities and shortages of professional health personnel," said Dr Kgosi Letlape, chairperson of SAMA.

 

SAMA will hand over a memorandum comprising all its concerns to the Department of Health, which include the following:

 

· Appalling state of public health care facilities;

· Inability to recruit and retain adequate number of health care professionals ;

· Lack of career prospects and promotion opportunities for doctors in the public sector;

· Health legislation restricting doctors from dispensing medicines to their own patients, thereby compromising patient care and limiting access

to medicines;

· Proposed Certificate of Need, that makes provision for the licensing of private practices that intrudes on doctors' right to human dignity; freedom of movement and residence; freedom of trade, occupation and profession; and property rights; and

· New competitive and unrealistic reimbursement levels for doctors' services with shortfalls that will be borne by patients, increasing the financial burden on members of medical schemes.

 

The Association further calls on government to:

· Allocate more money to upgrade public health facilities;

· Establish a separate bargaining forum for health care professionals

where public sector doctors can negotiate on their salaries and conditions of service;

· Recognise existing mechanisms that regulate dispensing doctors and their ability to continue dispensing responsibly and in the interests of their patients;

· Include the medical profession in the strategic planning process, pooling the collective skills and resources of the profession to find practical and viable solutions to South Africa's health care needs.

 

"SAMA believes that the proposed restrictions by government impose on doctors` rights, their professional autonomy and clinical independence, which are not conducive to delivering quality health services.

 

"Its time for constructive engagement between the profession and government in finding solutions that concentrate on the delivery of care, and adequate distribution of medical skills and resources in both the public and private sector.

 

"Legislation is not the way to go. It just creates a huge bureaucracy that is costly to support."

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