No Xmas doctors threat
GAUTENG hospital patients could be left unattended during the festive season if the health department fails to pay doctors for overtime.
Medics threatened to abandon overtime shifts after their bosses said they would not be paid for extra hours because the department had exhausted its budget.
The warning was given days after Premier Nomvula Mokonyane announced plans to rope in an administrator to clean up the financial mess that has plagued the department.
Last week, health MEC Hope Papo said the sector's professionals, administrators and managers would be forced to do their work within normal working hours. Doctors and nurses, however, would not be affected, Papo said.
But doctors have in the past few days held behind-the-scenes meetings to map out a plan of action if they are not paid their due.
Health spokesman Simon Zwane acknowledged last week that overtime pay for some doctors was overdue but a decision was taken to pay money owed to the medics. But he did not specify when the payments would be made.
Some doctors are owed more than R100000 for claims dating back to September.
A Sebokeng Hospital doctor who asked not to be named said yesterday that medics had met the hospital's management on Friday.
"Our meeting was to ask if and when the department would pay us the money it owes us," the doctor said.
The doctor said they were told the department had promised to pay their outstanding claims by tomorrow.
"There is also an allegation that we are abusing the leave system. It is not that we are abusing it, and it is not like we really need the money, we are just trying to help.
"We will see [tomorrow] if they pay us. If they don't, we will take action."
The doctor said his colleagues would not strike but would report for duty only during normal hours and would not be on standby.
The SA Medical Association's Dr Phophi Ramathuba said unpaid overtime was a problem in Gauteng.
"This is a crisis and has been for quite some time. We need to resolve this issue urgently. It is not that we want to strike, but 'no pay, no work' should also apply to us," she said.