Limpopo Health MEC unrepentant about ‘inexperienced’ appointments

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Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba has stuck to her guns, saying she does not regret appointing “young and energetic individuals” to senior positions in the province. City Press reports that she says, in fact, the province’s health sector has drastically improved thanks to the appointment of “energetic and ambitious” individuals who have resuscitated its ailing heathcare system. The report says she had been accused of currying favour with union bosses by appointing “inexperienced” individuals to senior positions.

The report says last month the MEC replaced the entire management team at Tshilidzini Hospital in a so-called “intervention” with doctors deemed “young and inexperienced” by the very team they replaced but many senior doctors were also overlooked for these positions.

Doctors from the hospital challenged the manner in which they were removed. “We were not informed about the reasons leading to our removal and were not afforded the opportunity to defend ourselves. What is more worrying is that during our tenure in senior management at the hospital we did not receive any assistance from the MEC’s office. We wrote several memos asking for assistance, particularly for improved infrastructure, because the hospital was built more than 70 years ago. We did not hear back from head office even though all problems relating to poor service delivery were laid at our feet and we were removed from our positions for this.”

But, the report says, Ramathuba rubbished the accusations saying they were made by disgruntled senior doctors in her province. She said she was one of the chief negotiators of the occupational specific dispensation salary for doctors – which carefully weighs up the years of experience of doctors in line with position and salary.

“I vehemently protested against the requisite 10-year experience that was previously required for clinical managers and negotiated at the bargaining council that it be reduced to three years, which was eventually agreed upon. The argument that the doctors I appointed do not meet the prerequisite experience is null and void. They are more qualified in some respects. Besides having their medical qualification, in most instances the younger doctors also have an MBA making them more valuable for clinical management positions. Being young does not automatically make you inexperienced,” said Ramathuba, adding that “there are doctors who may be young in age but have gained a vast experience in management through partaking in things such as the student representative council (SRC) during their years at medical school”.

The report says she claimed she had given Tshilidzini Hospital more help than any other hospital in the province. “This hospital, serves a large community in Vhembe with patients arriving every day. I am from that area and would not deliberately ignore the pleas of management because of some supposed disdain for them,” said Ramathuba.

Ramathuba said doctors who were moved to different hospitals could still “air their argument, but for now (they) had to step aside and afford the intervention team the opportunity to turn around the situation”. “The issue with healthcare is that mismanagement and indifference leads to patients losing their lives hence the need for immediate and decisive actions which is what I have been doing in the province. I stick to my guns and reiterate that young people are the future. In all the hospitals I have made interventions there have been significant changes for the better,” said Ramathuba.

She said in the report that the doctors who were moved had exhausted the patience of their own colleagues who supported their replacement by the more competent staff she had brought in. “In a short space of time the new teams have made significate strides which have been lauded by the communities,” said Ramathuba.

However, the report says, not all parties are over the moon over the manner in which the MEC was overhauling the health sector in the province. Dr Mapikwa Sithole has taken the MEC to court over the manner in which he was dismissed. Another senior doctor, Sizeka Maweya, who was accused by aggrieved doctors of having been given a senior position due to his SA Medical Association connections and proximity to the MEC, said he did not want to work too closely with the MEC.

Maweya said it was not true that he had been given a senior position by the MEC because he had been appointed to the position he holds before Ramathuba was MEC.

But he said in the report that he did not want to work too closely with the MEC. “The MEC has her favourites and I am not among those. I thank God every Friday that the week is ending with me still in my job; this is how bad it is worrying half the time that you may lose your job at any time as this has become the norm in the province,” he said.

He said that unlike the assertion suggested, he was one of the most qualified doctors in the province.

City Press report

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