It would seem that the doctors in the public health sector have rediscovered their mission which has always been to betray poor people. In the years of the anti-apartheid struggle medical doctors were not, necessarily, part of the political work to bring democracy and health rights for all.

There were very few of them who engaged in the selfless struggle that brought about a just society for those who are marginalised.

If the truth is to be told, medical doctors have always mistaken to be part of the ruling elite because of their qualifications, skills, money and status.

They must rid themselves of the delusion that their strike action aims to contribute to transformation and equal access to health for all, especially the poor and marginalised.

General society must be wary of hooting in support of striking doctors or showing sympathy and solidarity for their so-called struggle. All that they are interested in is more money, more money and more money for themselves simply because they went to university for six years and did two or three years of community service.

They feel that this new government has reduced them to paupers by not paying them like they are cabinet ministers, engineers or accountants.

The empty echoes of their struggle reveal their preoccupation with selfishness, greed and desire for material things.

There is very little that resounds with the power of a moral force that wants to see the health sector transformed so that it can provide quality of service for all.

It is all about the alleged poor salaries that medical doctors and only medical doctors get.

Well, what about their colleagues who are administrators, clerks, cleaners, drivers, nurses and others in the emergency services? There is something that is fundamentally wrong when medical doctors abandon wards with sick and dying people simply because they want more money.

This is nothing else but cheap heroism that reveals the content of the character of medical doctors as people who are not better than other money mongers and material worshippers.

It is never enough for any professional, especially medical doctors, to go out on strike simply because they want more money for themselves.

It smacks of political opportunism and short-sightedness.

These are supposedly highly educated men and women.

Above all, they have largely been funded through taxpayers’ money for them to acquire the not-so-great expertise and skills they hold. It would have been much better if they showed a different calibre of leadership which transcended their myopic individual interest to embrace a bigger “health for all” picture.

This would have seen them fashion their “revolution” with all their other colleagues in the health sector.

It would have made more sense if they joined hands with the administrators, cleaners, drivers, cookers, nurses and a host of others to make a resounding demand about the urgent need to transform the health sector.

Of course, it will need more than just medical doctors to say “we have had enough. Our public hospitals must not be places for a death sentence”.

But the doctors have decided to go it alone and strike for more money so that they can drive in BMWs, eat in fancy restaurants, live in posh suburbs, dress in designer labels and wallow in luxury.

Their newly discovered historic mission is just to demand to be treated like the elites who have no genuine concern for the greater good.

The fundamental problem with the doctors’ strike is that it is not part of the struggle to make this a better society.

In fact, it is disappointing to realise that the doctors’ approach to their issues is no different to that of taxi drivers or any other semi-literate workers.

Yet doctors, because of their so-called high education and insight into life, should have used alternative means to pursue their struggle and set an example to the lowly like taxi drivers and semi-literate workers on how to use negotiations skills to get what they want.

Perhaps there is nothing wrong for them to demand more money, if they need it.

But what we should be concerned with is that doctors lack a vision that can contribute to the radical transformation of the health sector and society in general.

Their struggle is about money and yet doctors earning more money is not going to fundamentally change things in the health sector.

They must go back to the drawing board to reconsider what their struggle should be about.

The truth is they cannot afford to bite the government hand that feeds them.

It is time they showed that they will not put poor folks’ lives at risk for the love of money.



Sandile Memela

Sandile Memela is a journalist, writer, cultural critic, columnist and civil servant. He lives in Midrand.

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