A group of doctors have warned of the ‘destruction’ of South Africa’s healthcare sector as the country’s medical practitioners face increased persecution.
A letter signed by the Federation of South African Surgeons, the South African Medical Association, the South African Private Practitioners Forum and the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists states that without immediate action and intervention to restore the confidence of healthcare workers, there soon might not be any of them left.
“Without immediate action and intervention to restore the confidence of health care workers in regulators and the justice system of our country, we will witness the destruction of any semblance of a functional health system – public and private,” the groups said.
The doctors pointed to the recent assassination of Johannesburg anaesthetist, Dr Abdulhay Munshi, as well as increasing treatment of doctors as ‘common criminals’.
Munshi faced a culpable homicide charge alongside Dr Peter Beale following the death of a patient at Netcare’s Park Lane Hospital. The doctors’ groups said that the two veteran medical specialists had been treated as criminals prior to any internal investigations.
“The collective concerns for the national healthcare asset include a reticence for young South Africans to choose medicine as a career; avoidance of complex and high-risk interventions in providing medical care (that leaves high-risk patients without access to medical care); and an exodus of healthcare professionals from the country.
“These are all based on fear of arrest for recognised complications,” the group said.
Reports have also warned of an exodus of medical professionals from the country due to conflicts with government legislation – particularly the planned introduction of the National Health Insurance.
A survey conducted by South African Medical Association (Sama) among its members from the public and private health-care sector, found that 38% of respondents said they would consider emigrating if the NHI was fully implemented.
The association said that the proposed changes found in the NHI bill could cause wide-scale harm to the delivery of health care if they are not managed properly, adding that the bill had been introduced at a time of deep public mistrust in the government.
“Data from trade union Solidarity also indicates distrust towards the government regarding the way they want to implement and manage the NHI,” said Nicolien Welthagen, a research psychologist at the Solidarity Research Institute.
Welthagen said that the respondents do not believe the NHI will improve the healthcare system, and service delivery.
“Only 15% of respondents believe that it would be possible to successfully implement the NHI, and 84.5% are of the view that the implementation of the NHI could destabilise the healthcare system in South Africa and could harm the high-quality service already being provided by the private sector,” she said.