Friday, July 10, 2009

Loose ends and new beginnings.

Goodness gracious me...

What with all this strike action, and starting a new job I have had ZERO time to even log on to the internet...

No wonder I've been mildly depressed!

But I'm back now, so don't worry - more mad medicine to follow....

However, before we reminisce over last week's occurrences, let me first tie up some loose ends.


On Friday last week we decided to call of the nationwide strike. Our fellow doctors who had been fired in Kwa-Zulu Natal were re-instated, and a final offer by the Government was tabled. In lieu of these two facts, and the fact that we had been striking for an entire week, it seemed pointless to continue striking. The government was not prepared to offer any more than a five percent increase in our salaries, and closed the bargaining chamber. We deserved 50 percent. Thus, we unanimously rejected the final offer. We are currently awaiting the arbitration process.

Calling off the strike does not mean we have given up the fight. The government has said nothing about improving working conditions or pumping more money into our failinng health system to improve facilities for our patients.

In fact this is just the beginning...

For the first time in South Africa, doctors across levels of seniority, across institutions and across provinces were united in one cause. We realised for the first time that as a medical fraternity we have the ability to stand up an effect change in our country. Strange that it has taken us doctors, in a country famed for it's constitution and democracy, this long to realise our power.

The other awesome consequence of this strike is that we showed the government what it means to implement a Minimum Service Level Agreement. A doctor's right to strike is enshrined in our constitution - provided we implement a minimum service, and keep emergency centres open. The government promised for two years to define what our minumum service level should be, and of course, never got round to it. So we had to take matters into our own hands. As a result we managed to protest without jeapordising patient care, and nobody died as a direct result of the strike.


I never actually had a proper ending to my stint at the day hospital. The last two days there were spent toyi-toying and striking at the great tertiary institution on the mountain, Groote Schuur Hospital. (Site of the very first heart transplant performed by our own Dr Christiaan Barnard.)

So I slipped away, without any fanfare...

Many of the Sisters there noticed me on the news and in the papers - and sent words of encouragement. I miss them already...


My new job is in the "front room" ( trauma and casualty unit)of a secondary hospital also on the Cape Flats. This hospital is notorious throughout South Africa for being impossibly overwhelmed with patients. I remember it from my student days...patients lying on the floor, staff overworked, no facilities, patients sitting in the corner of the unit - for hours, and eventually dying there, unseen.

This hospital, had a drainage area of 7/8 of our entire metro district. The other many hospitals in our metro SHARED the remaining 1/8 between them. And this hospital was slapped with the task of treating the rest. Slightly unfair right!? But because of the way the city expanded, with the poorest of the poor shoved out into the periphery- this hospital was the closest beacon of hope in a sea of poverty radiating out around it.

I was expecting to be gobsmacked on my first day - and I was. But for the entirely paradoxical reason that the place was NOTHING like I remembered it. After years of disaster, the hospital management put their feet down and demanded that the drainage areas be changed. As a result - the hospital, while still busy, has a much more manageable patient load. Nobody was lying on the floor, nobody was dying in a corner, and the doctors had smiles on their faces. Incredible!

Thank you work gods!!!!! I must have done something good in a past life to deserve such an unexpected blessing!

My new job also dictates a new kind of lifestyle for me - a SHIFT lifestyle. I have been assigned to a team of doctors. There are 6 teams. Only one team is on per shift. I'm in the first team. Each team consists of an emergency medicine registrar, a medical officer and a community service doctor like myself.

Which means....I'M NOT ALONE ANYMORE!!!!! Yippee! Wherever I turn there are doctors more senior than me to ask for help. This is excellent news.

Our shifts are as follows:

During the week: either 8am-4pm, or 4pm-11pm, or 11pm to 8am the next day.

Over the weekends: 8am to 8pm or 8pm to 8am.

If one is on on the weekend you do the WHOLE weekend - fri, sat and sunday night, or fri, sat, or sunday day.

Often one has days off during the week.

This is fantastic news!

With all these new blessings bestowed upon me, I can only forsee great things for the next six months...

It's only been a week and I 'm loving it!

1 comment:

Ketan said...


Finally some happy things seem to be happening in your life. :)

Does your 'about me' need a change? And how about adding a few of your favorite books, music and movies? :)

I'm truly happy for you, but disappointed with one thing--you've promised a nervous breakdown in your current 'about me'. So, you won't keep your word? :(

TC, anyway.


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