5 February 2004
TAC to Minister of Health: Hands off Health-Care Workers!
TAC Statement on SAMA March to Parliament
Tomorrow the South African Medical Association will lead doctors on a march to the Openingof Parliament in Cape Town. The Treatment Action Campaign supports the demandsof public sector health-care workers for better working conditions, includingan end to post freezes, better remuneration and greater availability ofmedicines and diagnostics in clinics and hospitals. Training for health-careworkers needs to improve and incentives must be created to encourage doctorsand nurses to stay in the country, work in the public sector and service ruralareas. More than 80% of South Africans use the public health system yet morethan 50% of health-care expenditure goes towards the private sector, much ofthis spent on exhorbitant medicine prices and hospital fees. The decline ingovernment per capita expenditure on public health in recent years (addressedto some extent by the latest budget) coupled with the burden of the HIVepidemic has regressed the development of South African health care and thisurgently needs to be addressed. The TAC believes that the creation of a unifiedhealth system with substantial new public investmentÊ in which all peoplehave equitable access to health-care is critical to addressing the healthcrisis in South Africa.
A report commissioned by the Department of Health last year and conducted by the HSRC,MEDUNSA and the MRCÊ found "that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has an impacton the health system through loss of staff due to illness, absenteeism, lowstaff morale, and also through the increased burden of patient load." (pg.xiii, The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Health Sector). ÊThe report recommendsthat "antiretroviral therapy, coupled with food security, improved nutrition,VCT and home-based care, should be the package provided to people with AIDS whoare seeking care. This service would be provided in addition to the standardcare usually provided to people with HIV/AIDS."
The implementation of the HIV/AIDS operational treatment plan released last year bythe Department of Health will help stem the growing burden of AIDS relatedopportunistic infections on the public sector. This plan includes therecommendations of the above report. It also commits to putting 22,000additional health-care workers into the public health system over the next 5years. Yet, as described in TAC's statement of 27 January, a lack of politicalwill has resulted in unacceptable delays in the rollout of this programme. Theblame for this lies primarily with the Minister of Health.
The TAC notes with concern media reports that the Minister of Health has threateneddisciplinary action against doctors who participate in tomorrow's march. TheTAC says that anyÊ health-care workers who have action taken against themfor participating in tomorrow's march will have the full support of ourorganisation.