Heads of specialist units at the Port Elizabeth Hospital complex – Dr Basil Brown, Dr Lungile Pepeta and Professor Sats Pillay – had warned the media that, from this month, the hospital would cancel all operations not classified as emergencies because of the severe shortage of doctors.
The doctors held a press conference on Monday last week at which they said “the Eastern Cape department of health has proved itself to be incapable of dealing with the crisis”.
The department responded by sending them letters in which they were accused of violating “public service regulations” preventing state employees from speaking to the media without permission.
They were given 48 hours to respond and explain why they should not be charged with misconduct.
Brown, head of the cardiology unit, did not want to divulge the details of his response.
“We knew [the disciplinary action] was going to happen. We are waiting patiently to hear what happens next,” he said.
Pillay, head of the surgery unit, said he had until today to respond and would do so.
Head of paediatrics Pepeta said: “I’m concerned about the action but will wait and see what happens.”
Last week, the three doctors argued that they had “exhausted” all other avenues for resolving the staff shortage and making the “general public aware of the dire situation” was a last resort.
“If matters do not improve, levels of service will continue to drop and there is a strong possibility of widespread resignations by disillusioned doctors in the service,” the doctors said at the press conference.
S A Medical Association chairman Dr Mark Sonderup said yesterday that he was outraged by the attempt to launch disciplinary action against the doctors.