The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has issued a statement saying that they are concerned with the new overtime policy for public healthcare personnel signed and released by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

The new policy is to be implemented by the provincial health departments.

“This development has caused a great deal of anxiety within the medical fraternity because it has overtaken the current consultative labour processes,” said Chairperson of SAMA, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom.

“At the time of the release of the final draft, the medical profession was awaiting further consultation for ratification of the proposed amendments. The Minister appears to have overlooked this important step in the process,” continued Dr Grootboom.

SAMA said the proposed unilateral changes to the overtime policy has serious implications for the profession, and the public. It said the proposed changes render the provision of overtime by doctors impossible in that it requires them to work without proper compensation, and that it will result in many doctors withdrawing from overtime, effectively crippling delivery of healthcare services.

SAMA said it is critically important for the Department of Health to provide after-hours services as this provides healthcare support and cover for life threatening emergencies. It is also important for doctors to provide continued care to clear backlogs from day care which is affected by shortages of health personnel.

“We reject this attempt to force public sector doctors to abide by this policy. For this reason the Industrial Relations Department of SAMA is preparing to lodge a formal dispute with the National Bargaining Council,” said Dr Grootboom .

SAMA advised its members to continue providing overtime work according to the present contractual arrangements while the bargaining processes are being followed. It said this temporary arrangement should be done in the best interest of the public while attempts are made to further engage with the Minister and the Department of Health.

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