And so the strike continues...
We are on every tv news broadcast and I made it onto the front pages of two major Cape Town newspapers yesterday, along with some of my fellow strikers.
All the offers for remuneration increases made by our government have been rejected by us, across the board. Why? because it's pretty much exactly the same offer as before. It equates to about R300 extra a month. Our colleagues in Kwazulu-Natal were fired - 300 of them- for striking after they ignored an interdict to go back to work.
The ridiculous thing is that the Department of Health decided to single out individuals who were striking, and did not fire everyone. How did they determine which individuals deserved to be fired when the rest of us were doing exactly the same thing?
The stupidity of it is that they served some doctors with interdicts who weren't even striking! People who had been at work every day during the strike manning the emergency centres they were contracted to work in! Idiots!
All this does is send out a message that we are indispensable. They went on record to say that they will get foreign doctors to work in those posts. If they have the money to pay those doctors their locum rates - why do they not have the money to pay us what we are worth?
Why are they spending millions of rands on their lavish banquets, and birthday parties for the president's daughters - yet cannot afford to pump money into the failing health system? Where are their priorities?
People are berating us for striking. They keep saying people will die because of this strike. The strike has gone on for days and nobody has died yet. Why? Because we are still running emergency services. The doctors from the clinincs are now helping in these centres so there are more doctors focused on the worst cases.
Furthermore, people have DIED way before we were striking. Many died directly as a result of a lack of equipment and lack of adequate staffing. How does one expect one doctor on call for the night to handle three emergencies at once - with many potential emergencies lurking in the waiting room?
People keep saying that as doctors we knew what we were getting in to, and that we have a responsibility towards our patients, that it is illegal for us to strike.
I tell these people that we are not Gods. We are not superheroes. We are NOT saints. We are human beings, we are citizens like the rest of the citizens in this country and we have the SAME constitutional rights. Why is it that we are always the ones being depended on to do the right thing. Is it because we save lives?
Let me tell you something. Every single citizen has the ability to save lives. Feed that child begging at your door. Buy it some shoes and a warm coat in winter. Volunteer your time to go and teach in underprivileged schools. Ask where help is needed and go and provide it. Why is nobody berating YOU for not doing anything? You have NO idea what it means to be poverty stricken, and to be a patient in our state system. Some of these patients, the ones directly affected, SUPPORT us! We are faced, every single day , with the injustices done to our patients by the current health system. We are witnesses to the neglect.
At least we are doing something. And this strike is about so much more than the money. Pay our doctors properly so that they stay in the public sector. If you don't they will leave, and leave us in a worse position than before! We have been picking up the slack for years, stretching ourselves to breaking point to try to maintain a crumbling health system. We are tired of that responsibility - that needs to be shifted onto the shoulders of the Department of Health where it belongs...