Unemployed SA medical interns look to the UN and WHO for relief

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Unemployed SA intern doctors, who have been left in limbo for six months, have taken their concerns to the UN and the World Health Organisation.

A Sunday Tribune reports that one of the doctors has addressed a letter to the secretary-general of the UN and the director-general of the WHO, asking for their urgent intervention on behalf of more than 90 Durban intern doctors.

The report says in 2016, the WHO launched the Global Strategy for Human Rescources: Workforce 2030 to train 40m doctors and health-care workers worldwide of which 18m need to be in sub-Saharan Africa. The unemployed intern doctors want to know how the government expects to achieve this goal when they cannot provide jobs for them.

The report says Doctor Su-Jana Basson who addressed the letter on behalf of the doctors, said in her letter: “I am afraid that South Africa cannot afford to pay its own doctors yet we are taking in more medical students at universities. But once we qualify, we cannot work as the government is not employing us. It has been six and a half months since we have been unemployed and our Department of Health keeps promising that they will place us, but we believe the minister is lying and is not being honest with us. We believe that there are no funds to pay us.”

Basson said it was not only qualified doctors without work, but also nurses, physiotherapists, speech therapists, occupational therapist and other allied health-care professionals. The report says it has seen a list of more than 200 unemployed health-care workers nationally.

“Yet our hospitals are so short staffed and health professionals who are currently employed are overworked and working under extremely stressful conditions. We would like to know why there is a crisis as we were trained to be doctors and now we cannot use our skills to work in our communities,” Basson wrote.

Dr Rufaro Chatora, the WHO representative for South Africa, has received Basson’s letter. He is quoted in the report as saying that globally, issues related to the use of the health workforce remained a priority that needed to be addressed to meet the health sustainable development goal targets.

He said the 2030 workforce commission proposes ambitious solutions to ensure that the world has the right number of health workers with the right skills and in the right places.

However, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said in the report that there is not a single doctor who can claim to be unemployed, as all interns were placed. He said some doctors had rejected working in certain areas and then claimed to be unemployed. “If they tell me they are unemployed, 141 doctors are needed in Limpopo and I can send them there tomorrow, but they do not want to go and work in those areas. Most of them give reasons such as marriage and religion,” said Motsoaledi.

He said the department had verified the lists circulating. Most doctors on the lists were employed while some had rejected offers made to them for special reasons. He said in the report that a second list of foreign unemployed doctors had been circulated, but the department was not compelled to employ them as most of the ministers in their countries had informed him that they needed to return to their countries where they were needed in the work force.

Sunday Tribune report

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