GOVT DOCTORS RESOLVE TO DOWN TOOLS

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GOVT DOCTORS RESOLVE TO DOWN TOOLS
GOVT DOCTORS RESOLVE TO DOWN TOOLS

Africa-Press – Eswatini. Patients’ woes in public hospitals are far from over as doctors have resolved not to work at night and on weekends.

This shall be with effect from July 1, 2024, and it was a resolution taken following the omission of on-call and standby allowances. This is happening against the backdrop of a drug and medical supplies shortage in the country, which has grounded the public health sector. The shortage of drugs and medical supplies has seen patients, the public and nurses, protesting in an effort to coerce government to address the issue.

In addition to this challenge, patients who will seek emergency assistance in public health facilities on weekends and or at night, will not be assisted as the doctors will not attend to them, they said. There are over 300 on-call and standby medical personnel working in the country’s major hospitals, which are Mbabane Government Hospital, Hlatikhulu Government Hospital, Mankayane Government Hospital and Pigg’s Peak Government Hospital.Other healthcare workers who resolved not to work on weekends and at night are based at Mkhuzweni, Dvokolwako and Matsanjeni health centres. The on-call medical staff consists of doctors, theatre nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacy, blood bank and biomed, among other cadres.

Payment

According to the healthcare professionals, it had come to their attention that the payment of on-call and standby allowances for the period of October 2023 to March 2024, would not be included in the June 2024 salaries, as per the norm. Following the omission of the on-call and standby allowances, the medical personnel vowed to stop attending to all patients who would require emergency services, until they were paid their monies in full.

In a notification that was delivered to the Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Khanyakwezwe Mabuza, the on-call committee representing the healthcare professionals said; “As instructed by all medical personnel participating in on-call and standby duties, hereby relay that payment of the on-call and standby allowances for the said period is still expected to be paid with the June 2024 monthly salary. Failure to honour the above will force all medical personnel to immediately cease all on-call and standby duties in all affected facilities on July 1, 2024.”

Taxation

The medical personnel said they did not accept the omission of on-call and standby allowances. They stated that all other alternative payment arrangements explored in the past attracted higher taxation rates, which financially prejudiced the medical personnel significantly. They said staggered payments, omission of officers or other forms of delays, would force them to stop working until they are paid in full.

The resolution by the medical personnel comes after members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had recommended that the Ministry of Health should remove the on-call allowances budget and divert it to the procurement of drugs. Making reference to the Raleigh Fitkin Memorial (RFM) Hospital, PAC Vice Chairperson Manzi Zwane, who is also Nhlambeni MP, submitted that it was disheartening that government was paying so much to doctors for the on-call allowances, while patients were not attended to when the doctors had knocked off.

Substandard

The legislator added that there was no sense of urgency at the hospital, especially after 7pm, when the doctors had knocked off. This, he said, did not make sense for him to have an on-call allowances budget, when the service was not rendered. “Govemment is paying these people, but we are not getting the service. EmaSwati are getting substandard health attention at the hospital, but a budget is reserved by government to pay the on-call allowances.

The ministry should cancel the budget for on-call allowances and divert same to the procurement of more drugs,” the MP said. In response, the doctors said they did not take seriously the statement made by the PAC and were neither troubled by it. They said they were not going to entertain the statement, because there was nothing formal the ministry had said to them. This is not the first time the medical staff threaten to down tools over their on-call and standby allowances.

In December 2023, the medical personnel said they would not be available to be on-call and on standby, meaning they will work during the normal working hours. They argued that claims for the allowances were submitted about three months ago, but were still being processed by government, something that the health professionals viewed as a deliberate move to frustrate them.

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