The Solidarity Occupational Guild for Health Practitioners and Nurses noted the government’s import of Cuban medical practitioners, engineers and staff to fight the coronavirus in South Africa. However, this must also be seen in light of the fact that a large number of medically qualified South Africans are currently prevented from practicing medicine.
“Costs regarding the deployment of the Cubans, which include additional flights, quarantine, meals and interpreting services, are incurred. This money could also have been used very productively to assist the large number of South African medical staff who are now struggling because of the pandemic,” said Henru Krüger, head of Solidarity’s Professional Guild for Health Practitioners.
Solidarity believes that a misconception exists regarding the prosperity of the medical world during the time of the pandemic. Doctors and medical staff are severely hampered by the government’s current lockdown measures, which entail that almost no medical services may be provided in the private sector. Only emergency and chronic health services are excluded from these measures.
According to claims patterns obtained from Healthbridge, the decrease in consultations experienced by general practitioners is as much as 43%, for specialists it is up to 33%, for dentists up to 61% and for optometry as high as 91%. Nurses’ salaries were cut by 30%, and where physiotherapists saw up to 20 patients a day, they now see only 2. Dental technicians show no income and radiologists have to retrench employees. Many breadwinners have no income.
“The government shamelessly boasts about the luxury of having highly qualified and highly paid assistance from overseas while our own local practitioners and personnel are experiencing hardships,” Krüger argued. “With this action, local medical staff feel that the government is not demonstrating the same degree of sympathy for our local medical personnel, and that they are not considered to be important enough to receive assistance in their darkest hour.”
Most health care practitioners in South Africa practice as sole proprietors, and therefore they do not qualify for relief funds in terms of the current regulations. Money must. therefore, also be ploughed back into our own country.
“Charity begins at home, and the government should also offer assistance to the local medical industry,” Krüger concluded.