Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

Health department tells jobless doctors to look elsewhere

The department says it's fully aware that there are medical doctors who are still trying to find employment after completing community service.

The health department has told jobless doctors to look elsewhere for employment despite the country’s critical shortage of doctors, with barely one doctor for 1 000 patients.

Shortage of medical doctors

Responding to a parliamentary question In May last year, Health Minister Joe Phaahla revealed that the country’s doctor-to-patient ratio was 1:3 per 198 patients and 0,31 doctors per 1 000 patients, and the number of doctors is on the decrease.

Spokesperson Foster Mohale said the health department was fully aware that there are medical doctors who are still trying to find employment after completing the statutory community service.

ALSO READ: Mbowenis-bitter-pill-for-graduate-Doctors

He said in terms of the National Health Act, the National Department of Health – in conjunction with the provincial departments of health, took responsibility for the placement of internship and community service applicants.

‘Unemployed doctors on their own’

Mohale, however, said once medical doctors complete their community service, they then become free to seek employment in workplaces of their choice.

“It, therefore, becomes their responsibility to apply for positions at various hospitals under the jurisdiction of the provincial departments of health or in the private health sector. SAMATU’s [the South African Medical Association Trade Union] appeal to medical doctors who do not yet have employment is based on false information.

“At no stage did the department commit to finding employment for medical doctors who have completed their community service,” he said.

ALSO READ: SA-has-a-critical-shortage-of-Doctors-says-health-minister-Phaahla

In a previous discussion with the union, the delegation was advised by the department to submit a comprehensive list of such unemployed doctors, full personal details and the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) registration details of each doctor.

Mohale said the department would then share that list with the provinces for them to assist with employment where they have funded vacant posts, but that the union was yet to comply with this request and guidance.

‘Union disingenuous’

Mohale said they had no record of a notice about a planned march to its Dr AB Xuma Building headquarters in Pretoria on Thursday.

He said they have been alerted to a social media poster bearing the name of the trade union SAMATU agitating for the march.

What is disturbing, Mohale said, was the malicious pretence that is being partly cited as the reason for the march; that the department commits to finding employment for doctors.

“It is therefore disingenuous for leaders of professional and democratic trade unions for medical practitioners to try and exploit the emotions of those desperately seeking employment by giving them false information,” Mohale charged.

He said they remained committed to strengthening the health system through, among others, ensuring adequate staffing of its health facilities.

Mohale said this was the reason the minister continued to engage with National Treasury to improve the budget allocation to enable the public health sector to fulfil its constitutional responsibility.


He discouraged any action that sought to disrupt health services and that the department’s door remained open for honest engagements with any organisation that wishes to raise concerns, including sharing viable potential solutions.

“Whilst everyone and any organisation have a right to protest in public, such protest must not be based on false information.

“Leaders have the responsibility to represent their members honestly, faithfully and without distortion of the facts. Solution-seeking engagements are always welcomed to achieve a long and healthy life for all South Africans,” Mohale added.

The department explains that its responsibility ends once medical doctors complete their community service, then they become free to seek employment of their choice.

NOW READ: SA’s Doctors are jumping ship – Premiers, MECs, hospital CEOs are to blame

Read more on these topics

Department of Health doctors Dr Joe Phaahla

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits