Jun 28, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Mounting anger over paediatrician’s suspension for speaking out on working conditions

Wits University is working with the Gauteng Health Department to have the suspension of pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Tim de Maayer joins calls from civil society for the government “not to punish the messenger”.

A petition calling for Dr. Tim de Maayer has also collected more than 23,500 signatures since the news broke a day ago, as of Friday noon.

His suspension came after he called out poor working conditions at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg last month.De Maayer is a joint officer for the department and Wits.

“This is a ridiculous situation – instead of resolving the issues raised by the doctor at the coal mine who Department has decided to shoot the messenger,” said Prof. Shabir Madhi, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.

“It’s not as if our health professionals haven’t raised these issues several times through the right channels , but nothing happened. How much louder can our on-site doctors and clinicians speak?

“These actions violate the spirit of the agreement between Wits and the department regarding the management of our joint staff.”

The university said it has been in contact with the department since the suspension was announced and is “optimistic that it will be lifted”.

“If the suspension is not lifted, the university will plan a public protest in support.” from Dr. De Maayer.”

Health MEC Dr. Nomathemba Mokgethi, who confirmed Thursday evening that she had been made aware of the precautionary suspension, said she will be in touch with hospital management “and other parties concerned about the matter.”

The Progressive Health Forum , which urged medical colleagues to show their support for him, also called for De Maayer’s suspension to be lifted. As the sole pediatric gastroenterologist at Rahima Moosa Hospital, its departments are now effectively closed to the detriment of patients, according to the forum.

Section27 joined the outcry, saying, “Dr. De Maayer’s expertise [is] in short supply. But the department would rather have him home than risk him saying again what everyone knows: Gauteng’s health is in crisis in health. Instead of taking concrete steps to respond to the desperate cries of dedicated professionals who have a unique insight into the system and its problems, the whistleblowers (and consequently their patients) are being punished.

„ Our healthcare system is in crisis and relies heavily on the hardworking staff going above and beyond the call of duty to serve patients. If they speak, it’s not for the glory. Instead, it is a cry for help and action.

“Our healthcare system and the people it is designed to serve need healthcare activists who care about their patients. We cannot afford for healthcare workers to be afraid to speak up.”

Here is a snapshot of comments from Change.org petition signers:

  • “It is absurd in every way to blame a clinician for highlighting the hideous realities (which are no secret) in our ailing system. Instead of fixing the avalanche of flaws in the system, they decide to address such a cowardly move. Oh, the shame.” — Sinabo Mnqonywa.
  • Daynia Ballot: “Whistleblowers need to be praised, not silenced.”
  • Ritshidze Mulaudzi: “Advocating for systemic change is the core of what pediatricians do. I will stand up against injustices that harm children.”
  • “Patient advocacy is at the root of medical practice. An absolutely outstanding person and professional. His caring for patients and skill would make him popular and wealthy in private practice, yet he continues to serve the poor and expects nothing in return.” — Masego Meyer.
  • “I can relate to what he is saying. He speaks the truth. Firing him doesn’t solve the problem, it just removes a truly caring pediatrician from our broken system.” — Annemarie Olivier.
  • Mohammed Vahed: “Please do not divert from the issues to hide your incompetence . Doctors like this doctor sacrifice themselves to make the public sector work and serve the poorest of the poor. By suspending him, you’re doing your patients a disservice. This is how healthcare fails in South Africa.”

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