South African doctor groups have called for government intervention to ensure the safety of healthcare workers, followed the allegedly targeted recent murder of Johannesburg anaesthetist, Dr Abdulhay Munshi, reports City Press.
In a statement, they demanded action from the Ministries of Health and Justice, as well as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Presidency.
The Federation of SA Surgeons, the SA Medical Association, the SA Private Practitioners Forum and the SA Society of Anaesthesiologists said that, without immediate action and intervention to restore the confidence of healthcare workers, there soon might not be any of them left. “There is every reason to predict the destruction of any semblance of a functional health system – public and private. Soon there will be no health workers to blame or murder – and no health workers to heal the sick,” the doctors said.
In December last year, Munshi became the co-accused in a case of culpable homicide along with veteran paediatrician Dr Peter Beale following the death of Zayyaan Sayed – a 10-year-old boy the pair had performed surgery on in October of the same year at Netcare’s Park Lane Hospital. It was this immediate criminalisation of the matter – prior to the normal processes of inquiries and internal investigations by the hospital group as well as the Health Professions Council of SA – that the doctors are concerned about.
“The treatment of South Africa healthcare professionals as common criminals prior to inquiry is untenable. The collective concerns for the national healthcare asset include a reticence for young South Africans to choose medicine as a career; avoidance of complex and high-risk interventions in providing medical care (that leaves high-risk patients without access to medical care); and an exodus of healthcare professionals from the country. These are all based on fear of arrest for recognised complications,” the medical groups wrote.
City Press notes that while the doctors do not speculate on the reasons behind Munshi’s killing, they have also called again on the authorities to “effectively and quickly” investigate his death and bring those responsible to book. The doctor groups added: “SA’s healthcare workers are afraid to practise and are afraid for their lives. Yet their dedication to delivering quality healthcare remains firm. They encourage best practice and absolutely support investigations into patient harm. However, it’s increasingly difficult to deliver healthcare to the nation while healthcare workers feel besieged.”
Full City Press report
Murder of charged anaesthetist brings pressure for legislative change
MPS Column: Reflecting on a tragedy
Murder of Munshi: HPCSA calls on government not to ‘criminalise medicine’
Prosecuting healthcare professionals for culpable homicide – who benefits?