Red tape trips up would-be immigrant specialist

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Dr Afke Robroch, one of only four paediatric critical care specialists in KwaZulu-Natal, has given up on a years-long struggle with bureaucracy, to return to Holland.

Robroch, who says she has helped reduce the mortality rate of infants at Grey’s Hospital over three years, is leaving after her application for a critical care permit was granted only three days before her work permit expired.

The Witness reports that Dr Afke Robroch, one of only four such specialists in KwaZulu-Natal, left her family and life in Holland to work in South Africa in 2013, thinking she would spend the remainder of her life here. However, Robroch is now having to leave the country and head home.

“I waited two years to be registered with the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) before coming to South Africa,” she is quoted in the report as saying. “It was quite a struggle, but I was persistent and adamant that I wanted to work as a doctor in this country.”

Robroch said she quit her job, packed up her life and moved to Pietermaritzburg in 2013, commencing work as a paediatric specialist in critical care. While working with critically ill children, she was also involved in outreach programmes, travelling to either Lady¬smith or Newcastle once a month to help build the skills of other doctors.

In 2014, Robroch applied for a critical care permit at the Department of Home Affairs, hoping to continue her work at Grey’s. However, she discovered later, when her application was rejected, that she had received the wrong paperwork. This happened a few more times until she thought she had all the correct papers in September 2015.

“I finally sent everything in. However, my application was rejected because I was missing one document that I had in my possession, but was told I did not need it.

“I asked if I could send that in and appealed the case, but they said there was an 11-month backlog and the appeal would only be looked at in October 2016.”

Robroch said in the report she then tried to extend her work permit and asked Edendale hospital for an endorsement letter in January, to send with her application. “I received the letter in April, and by then it was too late. Her work permit expired on 1 July 1 and the new permit was processed on 28 June, after she had booked tickets back to Holland and accepted a job at a hospital there.

She said that only three critical care paediatric specialists would be left in the province when she left.

According to the report, Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said: “Employer-employee contractual relations are confidential and treated as such, unless required by law to deviate from this.”

The Home Affairs Department did not respond to questions, the report said.

Full report in The Witness

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