Doctors who head specialist departments at the Port Elizabeth Hospital Complex issued a statement on Monday “out of sheer desperation”, warning the public that they were in a state of crisis and would be forced to cut services to patients.
From July 1, they would be able to offer emergency services only.
In a joint statement issued by the clinical heads of specialist departments at the three hospitals that make up the PE Hospital Complex – Dora Nginza, Livingstone and Provincial hospitals – the doctors said they had decided to make the public statement after exhausting all other avenues.
But the spokesman for the Eastern Cape Health Department, Sizwe Kuphelo, slammed the doctors’ statement as “out of order” and threatened disciplinary steps.
“They have no authority to call a press conference or issue a statement. They should have followed internal protocols within the department if they had concerns.” Kupelo would not respond to the issues the doctors raised.
“There will be an internal disciplinary hearing against all the doctors that were involved.
“You don’t do as you wish…” he said. “They have acted as if the department is a banana department.”
The doctors contend, however, that the Eastern Cape Department of Health has proved incapable of dealing with the crisis, which includes lack of staff, vacant posts, contracts of doctors not being renewed and some doctors who have not been paid since January.
The statement was read at a media briefing by Dr Basil Brown on behalf of the heads of units of the PE Hospital Complex.
“The crisis we face is essentially due to the fact that the Eastern Cape Department of Health has placed a moratorium on the appointment of new junior and specialist doctors, while not renewing the contracts of doctors who have worked in our departments previously.
“Doctors who have left by attrition or resignation have not been replaced, despite there being willing, qualified applicants. To compound matters, the salaries of a number of doctors who have worked on a sessional basis have not been paid since January.
“An equally serious situation affects the appointment other vitally important health care workers, such as nurses and pharmacists. 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 statement said.
In the casualty departments at Dora Nginza and Livingstone, there were not enough doctors to run the units. All specialist departments were affected.
“All attempts from our side to convince the EC Health Department of the dire consequences of this policy have fallen on deaf ears. We have also written to the Premier of the province, Noxolo Kiviet, and to the national Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, appealing for them to intervene in the crisis…
“Having exhausted all avenues open to us to persuade the powers that be to reverse this moratorium on the filling of critical medical posts, we now feel obliged to make the general public aware of the dire situation the hospitals are in… The only way in which we can deal with the serious staff shortage – which is beyond our control – is to curtail the services offered by our various departments,” the doctors said.
From next month, only emergency or life-saving surgery would be performed. In addition, the number of patients seen at clinics would be limited, the statement said.