Media Release: Doctors Conditions of Service Need to be Addressed

24 September 2016

Doctors Conditions of Service Need to be Addressed

Providing quality healthcare is the cornerstone of all medical practitioners’ social contract with their patients. The ability to deliver on this contract is being eroded by several external factors. A significant issue facing doctors, especially junior doctors, is that of excessive working hours, which is unsustainable.

For many years the working hours of doctors has been an increasingly burning issue, with increased risk – not only to themselves, but for patients as well. In a recent incident, a young colleague, Dr Ilne Markwat, died in a tragic motor vehicle accident on her way home after being on call. It is believed that she fell asleep behind the wheel of the vehicle.

To begin to fundamentally address the problem, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) is launching an armband campaign to assist patients, administrators, and doctors, identify doctors by the duration of hours they have worked. Doctors will wear specific colour armbands to show how long they have been on call.

A green armband indicates the doctor has worked less than 24 consecutive hours. For any patient, this is good news as it means the medical professional is still alert and able to perform optimally.

An orange armband indicates the doctor has worked more than 24 hours but less than 30 hours and a red armband indicates the doctor has worked more than 30 consecutive hours. A doctor with a red armband is a potential risk and should be allowed to rest.

The campaign is not only aimed at making it easier for people to identify doctors who have worked longer hours, it is also a visible reminder that more doctors are needed to properly manage the workload.

“The armband campaign is a very important tool for us assist the public identify those professionals who have gone beyond the reasonable hours they should. But, it is also a reminder that we simply need more doctors in our country. If there are more doctors, those currently working will have the workload shared among others,” said Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, chairperson of SAMA.

Dr Grootboom said it is also a way in which SAMA is actively encouraging authorities to fill vacant posts, hire new people for new posts, and ensure all specialties in hospitals are catered for.

“We cannot continue with a situation where doctors are putting in 10, 15 or even 20 hours extra per shift to the detriment of their patients, and their own health, while vacancies are not filled. If this status quo is not reversed we will, unfortunately, have an increased risk of incidents involving tired doctors. The issue needs urgent attention,” he said.

The social media campaign started on 5 September 2016. SAMA will be airing a television advertisement from today (Subs: 23 September) until 19 October 2016 to increase awareness.


Notes to Editors
About SAMA
The South African Medical Association was formally constituted on 21 May 1998 as a unification of a variety of doctors’ groups that had represented a diversity of interests. SAMA is a non-statutory, professional association for public, and private sector medical practitioners. SAMA is a voluntary membership association, existing to serve the best interests and needs of its members in any and all healthcare related matters.

Head of PR & Communications
Dr Simonia Magardie
082 905 8505

Spokesperson 1
Chairperson: SAMA
Dr Mzukisi Grootboom
083 306 7779

Spokesperson 2
Vice-Chairperson: SAMA
Prof Mark Sonderup
083 626 1909

Spokesperson 3
Chair of the Employed Doctors Committee
Dr Shailendra Sham
082 445 8517


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