An update on the events following the open letter issued by RHAP, SECTION27, RuDASA and TAC to MP DoH on 26 August 2013 to Mr RM Mnisi, the Mpumalang Department of Health HOD regarding the “On-going Reports of Harassment, Unfair labour Practice and Poor Leadership, High Staff Turn-Over at Tintswalo Hospital since 2010 and No Improvement”.
In the letter we asked for a response by Friday the 30th of August. The Mpumalanga Department of Health responded by Friday afternoon (letter attached) and the letter addressed some of our concerns:
– A disciplinary hearing is on-going regarding some of the alleged unfair labour practices
– An investigation is taking place surrounding the conditions under which a notice of suspension was issued to a Tunisian doctor for allegedly not submitting medical qualifications, and later withdrawn again
– The process of the appointment of the Tintswalo Hospital CEO has not yet been concluded
– The Department is in the process of, amongst others, filling critical posts and training the recently appointed hospital board so that they can be able to assist hospital management.
We welcome these interventions. Until today we had not yet shared the response because the letter did not address the last issue which was:
6) The newspaper publication referred to above places the role of Tunisian doctors in a negative light and is based on untruths. As you know foreign qualified doctors from countries such as Tunisia, Cuba and Iran form the backbone of clinical care in many rural parts of the country, including Mpumalanga. They are qualified doctors, carefully selected through government-to-government programmes, and HPCSA registered. What is the Department’s response to the newspaper article?
After querying the lack of response to this issue, the MP DoH indicated it was an omission and the RHAP was asked to give the Department five more days to respond to this matter. The five days have passed and we have unfortunately not received a further response.
We however wish to note that:
– We are encouraged by the communication received from the Office of Health Standards Compliance, noting that: “Your letter of complaint has been forwarded to the Mpumalanga Department of Health with a request to do an investigation and to provide a report to the National Department of Health on the outcomes of the investigation”
– We also welcome the visit to Tintswalo on the 4th of September by Dr Carter, DDG for Hospital Services and Human Resources from the National Department of Health. During this visit Dr Carter met with and apologized, on behalf of the National Department of Health, to the Tunisian doctor in question for the obvious victimization and harassment he has been subjected to. He allegedly also questioned why the acting Hospital CEO could not produce the medical qualifications of the doctor in question, whereas he himself managed to obtain them within an hour’s time from the HPCSA. We welcome the concern and leadership shown by the National Department of Health.
– We have been informed that the District-based Specialist Support Team visited the hospital last week
– The letter from the MPDoH states that “the department conducts exit interviews for officials leaving the Department (…) one reason which appears to dominate these interviews is based on the rural nature of the place where the Hospital is located” and “the rural allowance is believed to go a long way in addressing the challenge.”
However, for some of the doctors we spoke to, no exit interviews took place. The rural nature of Tintswalo Hospital was also not the reason for resignation. Instead, governance problems including the non-conducive work environment and harassment by the hospital management were the reason for leaving the hospital. We do however support the notion of the rural allowance as a recruitment strategy of scarce staff to inhospitable areas. Financial incentives alone will however never be the solution to recruitment and retention of scarce staff. This is why the national HRH Strategy for the Health Sector includes chapter 8 on rural health, which provides a broad set of strategies that need to be implemented to address the HRH shortages in rural health. Progress with the implementation of the above chapter is unclear and the rural task team is yet to be appointed.
We will closely monitor further developments at Tintswalo Hospital including the investigation and disciplinary processes taking place and the progress on the appointment of a competent and experienced Hospital CEO and Clinical Manager.