On 21 June 2022, the Maverick Citizen published a unprecedented open letter from more than 130 senior health professionals addressed to the Minister of Health and the Premier of Gauteng.

The article stated: “the health professionals include senior academics, senior specialists of major public hospitals and heads of department, a former director-general, deputy director-general, deans of university health faculties, former heads of provincial health departments, the chair and CEO of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, the president of the Medical Research Council and the CEO of the board of Healthcare Funders.

Each person signs “I am” followed by their name, as a direct challenge to authorities to discipline them if they dare.

The letter is written in solidarity with Dr Tim De Maayer, whose own open letter about the dire conditions at Rahima Moosa Mother & Child Hospital earned him the support of many – and a suspension from work. The resulting outcry saw him being reinstated, but there were reports of ongoing victimisation at work, which provoked another groundswell of support.

The “I Am” movement arose spontaneously in recent days.”

In light of this movement, PsySSA has written to the Department of Health’s Director General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi and its Gauteng Head of Department, Dr Nomonde Nolutshungu, expressing our concern over our failing health care system and joining the multitude of health professionals in condemning the health authorities’ negative responses to Dr Tim De Maayer who sought to highlight the poor conditions at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.

Consistent with Dr De Maayer’s assessment, many of our members working in government health care can confirm that “things are falling apart”. In this context, it is important to recognise the wider ethical duty of health professionals. They have a professional imperative to do everything possible to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients, which includes raising the alarm regarding contextual factors that militate against patient care. In other words, health care workers, including administrators, who fail to do this may be considered to be failing in their ethical duty to serve humanity and advocate for patient care.

We urge the government health authorities to acknowledge and address the failings in the health care system, and listen to the voices of citizens, health workers and anyone who has an interest in improving our health care system. 

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