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Doctors issue chilling warning

Business

Ntsoaki Motaung

The Lesotho Medical Association (LMA) has made it crystal clear that the Ministry of Health’s director of clinical services, Dr Lucy Mapota, is playing with fire and warned that it will lodge a lawsuit against her.

“Client inform us that a judgment was issued by the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court in LMA v. Minister of Health and Others, Constitutional Case no.19/2019 on the 24th June, 2020 directing the Ministry of Health to pay night shift work done by LMA members,” advocate Fusi Sehapi, legal representative of LMA, said in a letter.

Sehapi indicated that the ministry had knowingly or intentionally and negligently ignored, failed or refused to abide by the judgment.

He said that as a legitimate outside court remedy, members of LMA opted to refrain from preparing call rosters and attending unpaid calls but the ministry continued to force them to do unpaid calls despite the judgement.

“On the other hand, you Dr Lucy Mapota is busy posing illegal threats of immediate dismissals to members of LMA for their justified refusal to prepare call rosters and attend unpaid calls.

“Kindly note that the principle of no work no pay has a corresponding principle of no pay no work which perfectly permits LMA members from withdrawing from performing unpaid work,” Sehapi said.

He explained that Dr Mapota’s threats to expel the doctors for refusal to do unpaid work were clearly beyond her legitimate scope of work, hence constituted a personal attack on her part.

“We, therefore, advise you to refrain from your illegal campaign, otherwise a lawsuit will be lodged against you as a person and your personal assets will be attached to realise an order of court sounding in your payment of client’s monies. We hope this letter suffices for now,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Mapota said she was out of the country.

LMA announced in February this year that the doctors would stop taking calls from March 1, citing nonpayment of call allowances.

LMA said this was because, 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 Ramafikeng 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 notbe partaking in hospital duties that they are not paid for by the government of Lesotho from the 1st March 2023.

“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,” the statement read.

Earlier this month, Newsday reported that LMA had condemned what it termed the intimidation of doctors who are on strike and refusing to work at night and on weekends by the ministry of health.

This was after the director general of health services, Dr ‘Nyane Letsie, urged the doctors to immediately resume call duties or face disciplinary action.

“This is intimidation. The doctors have made it clear that they will only agree to take calls when the money they are owed has been paid,” LMA president, Dr Mojakisane Ramafikeng, told Newsday then.

This was after Dr letsie had written a letter to the district medical officers (DMOs) and medical superintendents acknowledging that the issue of non-payment of call allowances had created animosity.

“The ministry of health wishes to apologise to all doctors for the longstanding problem of the delayed payment of call duty allowances that has created animosity and suspension of calls after normal working hours,” she said in the letter which was also copied to the LMA.

She indicated that after the doctors embarked on the strike, the ministry of health worked tirelessly and hard to ensure that all relevant ministries and stakeholders are brought to collectively produce a long-term solution to this problem.

Dr Letsie had also disclosed that call allowances were budgeted for in the current financial year to avoid “similar mistakes”.

She said the ministry would continue to exert all efforts and dedication until all outstanding amounts were fully paid.

“It is against this background that the ministry urges all doctors to immediately resume call duty. Furthermore, all DMOs are expected to submit to the office of the Director General call roaster for the month of April 2023 by 4:30pm, on Wednesday, April 5.

“Failure to comply will lead to disciplinary action against individual employees. The ministry also wishes to remind doctors of their ethical obligation to patient care as an essential service. Also, doctors are considered as core and priority human resource in Lesotho,” she said.

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