82 doctors left in limbo as Limpopo Health fails to place them

The acute shortage of doctors in the rural province highlights the challenges in healthcare service delivery.

More than 80 community service doctors are basking in the sun every day, doing nothing, after the Limpopo department of health failed to appoint them to hospitals in the province.

The doctors received letters from the national department of health on 15 June, informing them that they had been allocated to Limpopo for the 2023 mid-year circle on the Internship and Community Service Programme.

The doctors were told this information had been sent to Limpopo for processing and finalisation. They were supposed to start work on 1 July, but this did not happen.

The vast rural province is facing an acute shortage of doctors for its hospitals and clinics.

In response to a media enquiry, spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the province had 43 hospitals and 2 291 doctors and there was an acute need for more doctors.

The department was trying to create a conducive environment to retain its doctors and is “also offering incentives for doctors working in rural settings”, said Shikwambana.

But to the 82 doctors awaiting placement, the picture speaks otherwise. At least three who this paper spoke to yesterday said they were afraid, frustrated and disillusioned.

“I came here with my family, hoping by 1 July I will start working… But six days down the line, I am no longer sure I have a job,” said one, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation.

Another, who relocated from outside the province and asked not to be named, feared she may not get a full salary – or be paid at all – at the end of the month.

“The department is not being straight with us,” she said. “It can’t tell on whether or not we will be paid at the end of the month for sitting, doing nothing.”

Neither the Limpopo nor national health departments could furnish reasons as to the delay on placing the doctors.

National health spokesperson Foster Mohale said he was about to board a flight and undertook to respond by 3pm.

However, he did not do so, or answer calls by this reporter at the time he promised.

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