Maverick Citizen


‘We just want to work’ – unemployed healthcare workers appeal to Union Buildings

‘We just want to work’ – unemployed healthcare workers appeal to Union Buildings
Healthcare workers march through the streets of Pretoria on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Jobless healthcare workers have appealed to the government to provide them with employment, saying it was a misconception that they did not want to work in rural areas.

Hundreds of unemployed healthcare workers marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday demanding jobs, no national budget cuts in the Health Department and transparent placement lists. 

One of the marchers, Dr Mumtaaz Emeran, said: “In a South Africa that needs quality healthcare, it is very important that we appeal to the government to employ these healthcare workers to look after our marginalised masses.” 

Emeran, who graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2020, said the process of applying for posts was “really terrible. Everyone who is standing here right now has applied for posts; we have been called back for interviews, but you go to one interview, and there are 100 of you for one post. 

“When you do get called back, if you do make it to the next phase they say, ‘Actually there is no funding for this post’, so it has been really terrible.” 

She said it was a misconception that healthcare workers did not want to work in rural areas. 

“That is a myth at best. I was placed in a rural hospital last year for community service and they could not retain me because there were no funds, so it’s not that doctors reject rural posts, it’s that there aren’t any posts in the rural areas for us.” 

Healthcare workers march through the streets of Pretoria on 26 February 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Healthcare workers seek an increase in the budget for the health sector. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

A crippled healthcare system 

Dr Dzudzanani Marubini said, “I have applied for more than 50 posts and I have not received any call for any interview for those posts. Some provinces released posts in early January and some of them are starting to call now.”  

Marubini graduated from Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in 2021, after which he completed a two-year internship in Mpumalanga and one year of community service in Limpopo. Since then, he has struggled to find a job.  

“We are motivated not because we are special, not because we are separate from others, but we are motivated by how we interacted with the people of this country when we were delivering health services to them,” he said. 

“Without us there, it will have a negative impact on the healthcare system, and if we allow it to continue, we will have a crippled healthcare system.”  

Tshepo Mphahlele, a medical orthotics and prosthetics professional, said it was important for her to be at the march because there was a high unemployment rate in her specialised field.

“I qualified in 2019 and I have been on and off doing locums since then, but no permanent employment,” she said. 

An orthotist is a healthcare professional who makes and fits braces and splints (orthoses) for people, while a prosthetist makes and fits artificial limbs (prostheses) for people with disabilities.

Healthcare workers march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Healthcare workers demand jobs during a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

No posts for dieticians 

Nwabisa Yokwe, a registered dietician, is unemployed. “We cannot go to school and end up with no work at all. We have families to support, we have responsibilities to pay for, so we really need work,” she said.

Yokwe lost her job in the private sector last year.

“I haven’t been able to get absorbed in government. I have been trying to apply but nothing is coming in the government sector. It has been very difficult for dieticians,” she said. 

Yokwe said more than 500 dieticians in SA are unemployed. 

“We don’t know how to pay our rent. Since January, I have only seen two posts for dieticians in all of South Africa and those posts are in the Northern Cape,” she said. 

Koketso Mokhondo, a registered dietician, said that during community service she earned an income but now that she was unemployed she did not know how she would cover her expenses.

“January was hard for me because I do not have a job and I am unsure about the way forward. It was very important for me to be here because the government needs dieticians. We want to work but posts are just not being created or they are frozen.”

Healthcare workers marching in the streets of Pretoria. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Healthcare workers highlight the shortage of human resources in the public sector. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Lack of human resources 

Dr Joy Saville said after working in the public sector for the last three years, she had seen the impacts of the shortage of human resources. 

“I feel it is unacceptable that there are so many of us sitting without jobs when we could be servicing our communities,” she said. “We can’t have posts being frozen that should be occupied by medical professionals. It means that our workload is much higher and the number of hours we work per month is much higher.” 

On average, doctors work 240 hours a month, but these are just the recognised hours, and not all of those hours are remunerated, said Saville.

A total of 240 hours “is what it recognised and that doesn’t include your post-call hours where you are at the hospital till 12 o’clock after you have done a 24-hour shift.

“We have all been applying everywhere; often we apply to hospitals without receiving any feedback at all. There are a number of us who have applied to tons of hospitals and have not even been getting callbacks.” 

Saville said people frequently question why doctors do not choose to work in the private sector. 

“They [private sector] can only absorb so many of us, and again it’s a number of platforms we have applied to — it’s emergency departments, GP visits, it’s home calls. We have applied for everything and it is also our livelihoods at stake here,” she said. 

Government ‘has not planned’

Dr PT Matlala said the healthcare system was failing, and the government’s lack of planning and foresight were partially to blame. 

“We have been on this journey for nine years and they [the government] have not planned and they are using an excuse that we do not want to work in rural areas,” she said. 

“It is a blatant lie that we don’t want to work in rural areas. That is where we grew up, that is where we come from, that is where we want to serve our people because that is where the struggle is.”

Matlala completed her community service in a rural hospital where she said there were no doctors and patients were turned away. “Yet doctors are sitting at home, nurses are sitting at home.” 

Matlala has been applying for jobs since July. “We do not even get feedback. All we have been told is that they do not have money to fund posts, and we want to work,” she said.

A memorandum was handed over to Philemon Mahlangu, an official from the President’s office at the Union Buildings. It included the following demands:

  • No national budget cuts for healthcare;
  • A budget increase for the health sector to accommodate all unemployed healthcare workers;
  • A database of all healthcare workers completing community service must be captured and plans to accommodate all must be made;
  • A transparent placement list;
  • All placements must be completed before the end of each year; and
  • Professionals want full-time work with full pay and benefits.

A doctor, who asked not to be named, said she had been unemployed since 2023. 

“The fact that we are here means we want to work, we want to go and serve our people, we don’t want to just sit at home and not do anything. We don’t mind working anywhere — whether it is rural KZN or rural Limpopo. We are applying to all the posts they are releasing; they are just not funding the posts or the posts are just not there.

“We are not stubborn people. We are not just after the money; we just want to work and serve our communities,” she said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jennifer Tait says:

    It’s particularly sad for me that these are the doctors who were final years and then interns during the worst of covid, doing a difficult and dangerous job, and seeing so many deaths. They deserve our thanks. Instead, they are being shamefully let down.

  • R IA says:

    Good for you, I hope the government is listening to you.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Then vote DA.

  • Gillian Dusterwald says:

    The government created a problem by insisting that the numbers of student doctors were increased and then forgot that they might want to be paid for their work when they qualified…
    But there are solutions at all levels that could help the situation. First prize – a competent and honest cohort of policy makers that are proud of their work.
    For years, consultants in the public sector have been able to run a private practice “after hours”. Initially this was because they were underpaid relative to their private sector colleagues. However, their salaries were increased and state doctors now earn very well. This should be stopped, opening up jobs in both the private sector and the public sector.
    The requirement for two years of internship and a year of community service before junior doctors can register for private practice could be reduced to two year. These young doctors are also paid very well and they receive perks like very cheap accommodation.
    Doctors in the state do, however, work very long hours. Creative thinking in terms of hours worked could open up posts and result in a well rested medical cohort. It is terrifying to think of a doctor who has already worked for 24 hours treating a patient. This may mean a decrease in salary, but would open up posts.
    The Amathambo initiative (joint Aanit prizewinner in 2023) is working on streamlining rosters to improve resource use in the public and private sector.

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    Pity your communist anc masters shave spent all the taxes on their fat bellies and flash wmc bling?

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