'Old Boys Club' of racist, sexist, bullies in SA hospitals

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A former doctor who says that an 'old boys'  club' has been bullying and promoting a culture of racism and sexism in SA hospitals, has taken her complaints to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the Health Professions Council and the minister of Health.

According to a Daily News report, University of Cape Town medical graduate Yumna Moosa has lodged a formal complaint against a medical consultant in KwaZulu-Natal after she was allegedly sexually harassed while doing an internship at a hospital in that province.

The report says Moosa released a video on YouTube last week in which she exposes two of her superiors – one a head of department – who advised Moosa to destroy the logbook in which she recorded the incident. The doctors are not named in the video, which had had over 30,000 views

She said she made contact with five other junior doctors who lodged complaints, but who chose not to follow up for fear of them not qualifying as doctors.

The report says Moosa, who is acclaimed former Cape Times journalist Zubeida Jaffer's niece, graduated in 2012 and completed most of her internship at Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg. She then moved to Durban, where she completed the last four months of her internship.

"The incidents started in my first week at the new hospital. I responded by speaking to the individual concerned, then the HOD, then eventually submitting written feedback. Things became more formal after the conversations in which I was told that if there was only a written complaint, then it did not really happen"."

The report says Moosa alleged many of these incidents took place over a period of two weeks. "There were many, many incidents. He said my body was a distraction… He touched my chest… He quizzed junior colleagues about their pornography and suggested that Muslim doctors were bad at their jobs and should become terrorists instead." Moosa said she also overheard another senior doctor tell an intern: "You"re being stupid like a black person".

When she complained about the matters, no action was taken. She then approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and at its most recent meeting, the hospital's head of HR was extremely aggressive. "She accused me of forging my registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). "The whole thing has become quite bizarre."

Moosa said the HPCSA had informed her that it would take a decision about whether to proceed with a full public hearing at the committee’s next meeting.

The report says HPCSA spokesperson Daphney Chuma refused to comment, saying she was out of office. Moosa said she has engaged extensively at every level of authority up to the level of Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi.

"Medicine in particular is very old school and it is this strange old boys" club that prepares us to have this inflated sense of self," she said.

The report says the Department of Health was also not available to comment.


Moosa told The Times that the audio clips were recorded in a KwaZulu-Natal hospital but did not name it. And, the report says, provincial health department spokesperson Sam Mkhwanazi said he could not comment until he had more information.

The report quotes one doctor, Karin Morrow, who warned that the video was one-sided and "gives no flesh to her complaints so it is impossible to assess their veracity". Another doctor, Karen Milford, said of the people involved: "I think the way Moosa was spoken to and the things that were said (to her) were unacceptable, regardless of whether or not the people interviewing her believed her claims were true."

The report says Moosa has switched careers – she is doing a PhD in bioinformatics.

An online petition set up in the wake of the video, calls for an end to "the bullying of junior doctors".


Moosa pointed out in a Daily Vox report that her experiences were not unique to South Africa. “It happens in Belgium, it happens in the UK, obviously it happens in the States. It happens everywhere,” she said.

She says that this has been a long process but that the institutions to get help, the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and HPCSA, are working on it.

“We want this to be a positive story, so we don’t want it to discourage people from complaining and speaking out,” she is quoted in the report as saying.


Interim dean of health faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Professor Gregory Hussey said of Moosa‚ "We applaud her bravery in taking a stand to raise awareness of the ill-treatment of junior doctors". "Racism and sexism have been embedded in the health services environment for too long. This is abhorrent and unacceptable‚" Hussey said in a report in The Times. The university also called on doctors who had experienced abuse to come forward and report it so that the practices could be eradicated.

One junior doctor anonymously told The TMG online: "As a student I was bullied by doctors‚ as many other students were too. We often tried to address it but we were treated as weaklings for being upset." Another said: "I think what happened to Dr Moosa is very tragic and was (subjected) to those severe levels of bullying simply because she stuck to her principles and did not give up. I have certainly heard doctors say racist and especially sexist things that are not PC towards junior staff and sometimes patients. "One specific instance (of sexism) that I recall is being told by a clinical manager that he would not appoint a female doctor in a post if he could see that she was pregnant‚ even if there were no other applicants. This is because pregnant women 'disrupt things and steal from government' when they go on maternity leave‚" the doctor said.

According to the report, UCT said bullying of junior doctors was bad for the health system. "In a country where there is a critical shortage of doctors‚ where our juniors are the future of the health system‚ we can ill-afford to lose young‚ newly trained doctors‚" Hussey said. "We must build a health system based on equity and justice where everyone is treated with dignity and respect."

The report says numerous doctors have said that Moosa was known as a very good doctor when she was working as an intern for 20 months at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg.

Full Daily News report Full report in The Times Video Full Daily Vox report Full report in The Times

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