The Minister of Health Selibe Mochoboroane on Monday told doctors working in public hospitals to stop playing games and do their jobs as required or face insubordination charges.
“I have told doctors in our meeting this morning that this game they are playing has taken too long and they should go and provide services to the people,” Mochoboroane said.
He made the remarks while at the Motebang Hospital in Leribe.
Lesotho Medical Association (LMA), an association of doctors in the country, announced in February this year that the doctors would stop taking calls from March 1, citing nonpayment of call allowances.
LMA said for a period of over five years, doctors in the public sector had been partaking in work beyond ordinary hours without pay.
“This includes working during nights, weekends, and public holidays without any form of remuneration,” read the statement signed by Dr Mojakisane Ramafikeng, president of LMA, in February.
Doctors are required to be on call from 5 pm to 8 am the following day on weekdays, and the whole day on weekends and holidays, during which they can be summoned to attend emergencies.
“LMA wishes to inform the general public that doctors will not be partaking in hospital duties that they are not paid for by the government of Lesotho from the 1st March 2023,” Ramafikeng’s statement read.
It added: “This means doctors will not offer night duty (call) services (1700 to 0800), weekend, and public holiday services. Doctors will continue offering exceptional services within ordinary working hours and not beyond that until this matter is resolved.”
Mochoboroane on Monday said each doctor swore that they would do their job when they were employed.
“We will do the work on our part and you also have to do yours. We are not going to take people’s lives for granted and people end up dying because they cannot access services,” he said.
The minister instructed the Director General of Health Services (DG), Dr ‘Nyane Letsie, together with the ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) to take action against the doctors who would continue to refuse to take the calls.
If Letsie and PS fail to do this task, he warned, they will suffer the consequences.
“Doctors’ call allowances have been budgeted for, and their arrears are being dealt with. I do not see any reason why innocent people who are seeking medical care should continue to be tortured. That has to come to an end,” he said.
Letsie said doctors who continued to refuse to take calls would be charged for insubordination.
“It was only last week when we reached a conclusion that we have pleaded with doctors and it is enough. What is for us all is to do what is in the best interest of the nation,” Letsie said.
“Schedules were issued and if there was someone or a doctor that was not on their call on Saturday and Sunday that is insubordination,” she added.
She said the doctors’ industrial action led to the deterioration of the health services and the people were suffering.
Reacting to Mochoboroane and Letsie’s threats, Ramafikeng told Newsday that it was worrying that people who have to take responsibility and come up with solutions were instead coming up with threats.
“Doctors have made their stance very clear. They are clear about what they want. They want to be paid, they do not want promises. They are not going to take calls until they are paid. The question now is, what will our bosses do? I feel like they should do what they want to do because it seems they can’t do what they are expected to do,” Ramafikeng said.
“Instead of paying doctors, they instruct them to do the work they are not paid to do. Gone are the days when people were made to work for free. Doctors are not fazed by those intimidations; they want to be paid,” he added.
The association has written to the Prime Minister, Sam Matekane, to intervene in the matter.
“LMA Executive Committee humbly requests an urgent meeting with the Honorable Prime Minister to resolve the issue of unpaid call allowance for Doctors working within Government Hospitals.
“The issue has ensued for more than two months now with no definitive solution from the Ministry of Health but instead, doctors are being threatened to work for free without the employer (the Ministry of Health of Lesotho) fulfilling its mandate of paying doctors what is owed to them,” read the letter.
It added: “The issue has deep consequences for the nation, regrettably leading to the loss of lives in some instances. The Lesotho Medical Association wishes for a speedy and amicable resolution of this matter to save Basotho’s lives.”