THE SA Medical Association (SAMA) said on Saturday that wage freezes in the public sector will ease government’s financial burdens, particularly in the long-term, but must be done with more circumspection, than a blanket approach to halting salary increases across the broad spectrum of government employees.
During his budget speech on Wednesday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said government would continue to pursue public service savings through headcount cuts, early retirement, attrition, pay freezes as well as doing away with non-critical posts and certain employee benefits.
SAMA said while the public sector wage bill must be reduced significantly, not increasing the salaries of publicly employed doctors and nurses could have major consequences for the government down the line.
“Healthcare workers in public service already face many challenges that range from a lack of basic equipment and resources to general safety and security at their places of work. Their workloads are also massive with the risk of burnout ever present. If the doctors in the public sector don’t feel valued, they will leave, and the healthcare system will crumble even further – maybe to the point of total collapse,” said Dr Angelique Coetzee, Chairperson of SAMA.
Coetzee said SAMA appreciated that the government has a difficult task in balancing the ability of citizens to fund its priorities but that holding back on salary increases for healthcare workers will ultimately prove to be counterproductive.
“We applaud Minister Mboweni’s allocation to the health sector in general – and the focus he has placed on funding the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. However, if we look long-term we must question the decision not to increase salaries for public doctors and nurses,” said Coetzee.
Of particular concern to SAMA is the impact the salary freeze will have on the roll-out of National Health Insurance (NHI), which said Dr Coetzee, will be heavily reliant on public healthcare workers in well-run public facilities.
She said: “If doctors aren’t being remunerated properly they will find work elsewhere, it’s as simple as that. Many currently stay out of a sense of duty to their country but in the end that won’t keep the pots boiling at home. And, without doctors, NHI will have little chance of succeeding; everything must be done to retain as many medical professionals as possible in the public sector. Not increasing salaries is not the approach.”
(SOURCE: INSIDE POLITICS)