Doctors slam ‘unlawful’ appointment of junior doctors to top jobs

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Senior doctors in Limpopo claim that Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba has ‘irregularly and unlawfully’ appointed inexperienced junior doctors to senior management posts based on their ‘proximity to her’ or to curry favour with the SA Medical Association.

City Press reports that the disgruntled doctors allege that Ramathuba appointed these junior doctors based either on their relative proximity to her or on the fact that the doctors are close to union bosses, particularly those affiliated with the SA Medical Association (Sama). “Ramathuba only appoints those (junior doctors) close to her and union leaders, particularly those from Sama,” said Dr Stephen Ntlhane a senior practitioner at Mokopane Hospital. “She does this because she seeks to silence the union bosses from raising sharply the health issues in the province.”

The report says among the doctors affiliated with Sama who were alleged to have been appointed irregularly is Dr Sizeka Maweya, Sama’s current chair in Limpopo. He was appointed to the post of clinical executive director. “Dr Maweya did not have the eight years of experience required to be a clinical manager or the required three years as senior clinical manager – meaning that he was not even supposed to be short-listed,” said Ntlhane.

Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, the national vice-chair of Sama, confirmed that Maweya was Sama’s chair in Limpopo, the report says. But, she added: “Sama’s national leadership is not aware of any irregularities in his appointment because the association was not part of the process that led to his appointment, nor has Sama received any complaints about it.”

Mzukwa went on to make a request that anyone with information to the contrary should make it available to the association. “Sama currently has the biggest market share among unionised doctors; it is therefore possible to randomly pick up a Sama member when appointing a doctor to management positions, especially in smaller provinces such as Limpopo,” said Mzukwa.

However, the report says she conceded that Sama did not know why these individuals would be appointed to such positions if they did not meet the work experience requirements. Still, she remained resolute about Sama not being involved in appointing people: “Sama was not part of the process of appointments and was not privy to any information regarding these appointments.”

Ntlhane argued that the appointment of less experienced doctors came at the expense of “better-qualified and more experienced candidates” like him, adding that he had been overlooked numerous times.

The report says in response, Ramathuba denied allegations that she was appointing doctors to senior positions based on their proximity to her or based on unions’ affiliation with Sama. She went on to argue that there were more “highlights in appointing young clinical managers and the chief executive officer” than there were disadvantages. “At Mankweng Hospital, many specialists had left and it had become difficult for the institution to operate as a tertiary hospital. But since the change of leadership here, specialists are coming back. One of the greatest highlights in the recruitment of specialists is Dr Thato Moabelo-Monareng, who is the only ophthalmologist in the province assisting the department in dealing with eye operation backlogs.”

According to the report, Ramathuba added that it was thanks to youthful creativity and the passion of this new management that Mankweng Hospital “has opened the first-of-its-kind optic laboratory in the province, where we are able to test, prescribe and assemble spectacles while a patient waits”.

She did not dispute the fact that the doctors being appointed to these senior positions did not meet the work experience requirements, but maintained that “bringing young, vibrant and passionate people into positions of leadership means that more and more specialists are accepting to come and work in Limpopo”.

The report says Ntlhane, however, refuted this, saying older and more experienced doctors were leaving the province over the appointments of these junior doctors. He reported the matter to Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, but said he had yet to receive any feedback from the minister’s office.

The report says Ntlhane has sent many emails to the minister’s office. He and two other doctors said they were now seeking recourse from the media, “seeing that the MEC and the unions, which are supposed to take up such matters, are the ones embroiled in the scandalous appointments”.

The report says the disgruntled doctors said the minimum requirement for the senior clinical manager position, as stipulated in the 2017 advertisement, was eight years’ appropriate experience as a medical officer after registration with the Health Professions Council of SA. They added that there were many other cases where junior doctors without the prerequisite eight-year experience had been appointed.

City Press report

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