The South Africa Medical Association (Sama) has called on all doctors and other healthcare professionals who have not yet received their salaries to not report to work until they are paid.
The association’s Dr Rhulani Ngwenya says in an Eyewitness News report that according to their agreement with Gauteng Health, doctors who have not been paid would be allowed to go on special leave until they receive their salaries.
“We discussed the issue with the director general of health in the national office, who has made an undertaking that she went and spoke to all the provinces.”
But, the report says, an intern at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital says that management at the facility has denied this. “The hospitals are now rejecting us and are now saying that they have not received any official communication from the department and that they will be rejecting the special leave and they will be taking that from the annual leave.”
The Health Department in the province says that payments will be processed during the course of this week and the last group of workers will be paid by Thursday.
Just two days after warning that an admin error meant that interns and community doctors would not get their January salaries, The Times reports that Gauteng Health has said some of those payments have been made. It was reported last week that the department had warned in a letter dated 29 January that the employees might not get their month-end pay-cheques because their names had not been added to the government’s human resources payment system in time.
But the health department said later on Friday morning that more than 552 internship and community service employees were paid on 31 January and that more payments were expected on 4 February.
“In order to address outstanding payments due to late submission of professional registration documents, another run is scheduled for Monday 4 February and it’s expected to pay out on 7 February. A team is working round the clock to prepare for this next run,” said head of department Dr Mkhulili Lukhele.
“We regret the inconvenience caused by this mishap and will do all in our power to ensure it never happens again,” he is quoted in the report as saying.
The department came under fire from the Democratic Alliance (DA), which said last week that the payment of salaries to some junior doctors doing their internship and community service in Gauteng hospitals would be delayed after an administrative bungle led to the late creation of their posts. The Citizen reports that Gauteng Health acknowledged the delay saying that once a realisation had been made, Lukhele immediately sent out a communication informing hospitals’ CEOs of the delay in salary payments “to alleviate panic amongst affected employees”.
The report says salaries could only be processed after posts were created and this must be preceded by endorsement by the provincial Treasury as part of checks and balances to ensure spending was within the allocated budget.
The report says the department currently has 1,528 trainees, but the initial number it was allocated was 1,378. An additional 150 were allocated to ensure that all students in need of internship were provided an opportunity to complete their studies.“We express regret for all the inconveniences caused by this mishap and we are prepared to do all in our power to ensure that it never happens again,” Lukhele said.
DA Shadow Health MEC for Gauteng, Jack Bloom wrote on the Politicsweb site that junior doctors doing their internship and community service in Gauteng hospitals would not be paid at the end of this month but will have to wait until the end of February for their first pay-cheque of the year.
He wrote: “At the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, the newly employed doctors were informed as follows: ‘Kindly note that your salary will not be paid on 31 January 2019 due to the late creation of posts at Central Office. The posts were created 22 January 2019 in the afternoon. The mandates were prepared on 23 January 2019 and was sent by courier the morning of 24 January 2019 to e-Government for processing. Unfortunately, it was not enough time for e-Govemment to process them before the salary run on 28 January 2019 therefore, your salaries will be paid on/before 28 February 2019.’”
Bloom wrote: “I am appalled that junior doctors will suffer because of the inefficiency of the Gauteng Health Department. It is totally unacceptable that they will have to wait a month to be paid.
“The department must make a plan to pay them as soon as possible, rather than give a poor excuse that violates labour law and will cause acute distress to doctors who have to pay their bills like everyone else.”
Gauteng’s Portfolio Committee of Health has, meanwhile, welcomed Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa’s intervention after her department failed to pay medical interns on time. News24 reports that following the MEC’s intervention, 1,337 community service doctors were paid.
The committee said it would assess the impact of the payment delay, as far as health service delivery and the safety of patients were concerned. The report says this comes after committee chair Nompi Nhlapo met with Ramokgopa to get clarity on the matter.