Doctors at the largest children’s hospital in the country embarked on a silent protest this week, wearing black to highlight their deteriorating working conditions.
Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town treats children from all over the world, but doctors say they are overwhelmed as a result of a seasonal diarrhea outbreak.
The protest is separate to a strike by doctors in other parts of the country over salary increases related to the government’s occupation specific dispensation (OSD) that was scheduled for implementation in July 2008.
One of the protesting doctors at Red Cross, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the doctors were protesting against patients having to wait for up to eight to twelve hours before they were assisted.
“Working conditions have deteriorated because the doctors themselves are becoming sick as they are tired, exhausted and burnt out.”
About 20 medical staff had decided to embark on the protest beginning on Monday (20/04/2009) last week, but would only pursue the action if management failed to advertise vacant posts in Sunday newspapers.
Diarrhea season was one of the main reasons for the influx of patients, which even resulted in the hospital running out of basic resources such as needles and gloves because it could not cope with numbers, said the doctor.
Red Cross Hospital spokesperson Temba Gubula confirmed that front line doctors had embarked on a “silent protest” due to “overwhelming” patient numbers.
Gubula said the influx of patients was due to diarrhea, which was only expected to end in May.
Gubula said, however, that the silent protest had not impacted on hospital operations because doctors were continuing with their work as usual.
“We don’t know how long this silent protest will last but have been assured by the doctors that the service to patients will not be compromised or distracted by this.”
Figures from the Western Cape Health department provided in March indicated that diarrhea had claimed the lives of 149 children under five years old over the 2007/2008 period, out of the 7,790 admissions to hospitals.
National health department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said his department was not aware of any reports of doctors striking in the Western Cape or about the protest by doctors at Red Cross. – West Cape News