The Free State has lost 177 doctors and the province also has 28 fewer medical specialists than a year ago, according to the 2015 SA Health Review.
The number of doctors working in the public healthcare system in the Free State dropped from 716 in 2014 to 539, stated the review.
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The SA Health Review sourced the information from the Personal and Salary Administration System (Persil), Treasury’s central system that pays public sector salaries.
“When you lose a quarter of your doctors in one year you have a very serious crisis,” said Anele Yawa, General Secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Yawa claimed that under MEC for Health Benny Malakoane the public healthcare system in the Free State is falling apart
“On the one hand the system is collapsing, but on the other hand if you speak out or try to do something about this collapse you are persecuted and accused of racism or having a political agenda. We cannot blame these doctors for fleeing the province given the unbearable atmosphere MEC Malakoane has created.”
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In February whistle-blower doctors in the province doctors called on the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate the difficulties under which they are forced to work.
In an open letter published on the GroundUp News, they highlighted a number of shocking management failures for which the provincial Department of Health and the office of MEC for Health Benny Malakoane must ultimately take responsibility.
At the time the doctors warned that the standards in Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom, which made headlines recently over the death of 5 babies, have dropped so low that it is at risk of losing its accreditation to employ and train interns should it not adhere to an ultimatum from the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) to meet minimum standards.
“Ultimately it is the people on the ground who suffer. We are deeply disillusioned by the way in which the government and the ANC has allowed this situation to unravel under their eyes. We have spoken with both the Minister of Health and the Deputy President about the situation in the Free State, said Yawa.
"We also raised it in a meeting with ANC leadership at Luthuli House last September. They have all failed to intervene on behalf of the people of the Free State. Through their silence they have betrayed the people.”
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The exodus of public sector doctors from the Free State comes in the context of the dismissal and persecution of community healthcare workers who took part in a peaceful night vigil in July last year after having been dismissed earlier in 2014.
After seven court appearances the so-called Bophelo House 94 were finally convicted in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court last month for participating in a prohibited gathering. We expect this judgement to be overturned on appeal.
On November 10 the report of the ‘People’s Commission of Inquiry into the Free State Healthcare System’ will be launched in Bloemfontein. While the inquiry process was facilitated by TAC, the three commissioners – Thembeka Gwagwa, Bishop Paul Verryn and Thokozile Madonko – were given full independence and authority in managing the process of conducting the hearings and authoring the report.
"It is our hope that their report will help point a way in the increasingly desperate situation in the Free State," said the TAC.
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