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On 26 and 27 April 2016, junior doctors in the United Kingdom staged a two day strike followed up with the threat of their staging an indefinite walkout if the government did not address their grievances. Junior doctors are getting a raw deal in the UK and in South Africa as well.

In South Africa, junior doctors are probably faring far worse. John Roos in an op-ed in the Cape Times today, highlights the abuse of young doctors in our country. He highlights the tragedy of young Dr Ilne Markwat who most likely fell asleep while driving after a long night shift at Paarl hospital. Her car crashed into two oncoming cars leading to her death.

Junior doctors in the state sector have to work shifts in excess of 30 hours on a regular basis. This is inhumane, iniquitous and in our view unconstitutional. Society cannot condone such abuse.

We agree with Mr Roos that neither the interests of patients nor that of the sleep deprived and exhausted doctors are well served by continuing with this primitive practice. The fact that the law allows it shows what an ass the law is.

A young doctor died on her way home because she most likely fell asleep at the wheel. Who knows ho many patients must have suffered serious consequences because of an exhausted and sleep deprived doctor misdiagnosing a problem or failing in any other way. Who would ever want to be seen to be a bleary eyed doctor wanting to fall off to sleep?

A caring and responsive government would have acted to prevent this blatant abuse of junior doctors in our country. Clearly it does not care.

COPE urges all role players to speak out against this terrible practice. None of us would like to be subjected to that kind of mad shift work and certainly we should not allow junior doctors to be subjected to it.

In the name of humanity, this abuse of junior doctors must stop at once.

Issued by COPE

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