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South Africa: Total Hospital Shutdown in Five Provinces

Resource type: News

Business Day |

by Luphert Chilwane

Johannesburg — FIVE of the nine provinces experienced a complete shutdown of public hospitals yesterday as the doctors’ strike for a 50% wage increase intensified.

Doctors interviewed by telephone said public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and parts of Gauteng were completely shut down while those in the Free State, the North West and the Northern Cape operated with few doctors.

Lebogang Phahladira, spokesman for the South African Registrars’ Association, said doctors would fight until the government offered them a 50% wage increase.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi last week announced an 18%- 60% increase for junior and senior doctors, which angered many doctors because the increase includ ed incentives such as housing, car, scarce skills, overtime and car allowances.

The Junior Doctors’ Association described the offer as “an insult”.

Phahladira said yesterday doctors were prepared to fight until “their hands are broken”. He said SA’s medical fraternity was burning with anger and frustration.

After intensive negotiations that lasted until the early hours of yesterday, the Public Health and Social Development Sectoral Bargaining Council, which covers all health professionals at a national level, said the employer had presented its final offer to health professionals.

A media release from the council said the employees would now consider the offer.

Phophi Ramathuba, spokeswoman for the South African Medical Association said the offer would be discussed thoroughly.

She said there were some changes to the offer presented last week by the government.

“This new offer is divided into levels and phases – to be adjusted every year,” she said.

She urged all striking doctors to return to work.

Sandile July, director in employment practice at Werksmans Incorporating Jan S de Villiers, said doctors went on strike without following legal procedures.

“The issue that they are striking about is a dispute of rights and not a dispute of mutual interest, as an agreement was already reached in June 2007. Striking with regards to dispute of rights is prohibited,” he said.

July said there should be a dispute of mutual interest before going on strike, and if parties were unable to find a solution, the matter should be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to obtain a certificate permitting a strike.

“The strike can follow only if the parties failed to reach an agreement at CCMA. You cannot strike about the dispute of right, but you can with the dispute of mutual interest,” he said.

July said doctors were essential service providers defined by the Labour Relations Act, and were prohibited from striking.

Department of Health spokesman Fidel Hadebe said the department would issue a statement today regarding the “alleged” dismissal letters given to certain striking doctors.

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