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Slaves of the state - medical internship and community service in South Africa

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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

Health and Medical Publishing Group

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      Abstract

      Owing to a chronic shortage of medical staff in South Africa, sleep-deprived medical interns and community service doctors work up to 200 hours of overtime per month under the state's commuted overtime policy. Nurses moonlight in circumvention of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. For trainee doctors, overtime over 80 hours is unpaid, and rendered involuntarily under threat of not qualifying to practise medicine in South Africa. As forced labour, and sleep deprivation amounting to cruel and degrading treatment, it is outlawed in international law. No other professional group in the country is subjected to such levels of exploitation and discrimination by the state. These abuses should be challenged under the Constitution. Solutions include the installation of electronic time-recording in state hospitals, cessation of unpaid overtime, limits on medical intern shifts to a maximum of 16 hours, and an investigation by the Human Rights Commission of South Africa.

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      Most cited references 46

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      Effect of reducing interns' weekly work hours on sleep and attentional failures.

      Knowledge of the physiological effects of extended (24 hours or more) work shifts in postgraduate medical training is limited. We aimed to quantify work hours, sleep, and attentional failures among first-year residents (postgraduate year 1) during a traditional rotation schedule that included extended work shifts and during an intervention schedule that limited scheduled work hours to 16 or fewer consecutive hours. Twenty interns were studied during two three-week rotations in intensive care units, each during both the traditional and the intervention schedule. Subjects completed daily sleep logs that were validated with regular weekly episodes (72 to 96 hours) of continuous polysomnography (r=0.94) and work logs that were validated by means of direct observation by study staff (r=0.98). Seventeen of 20 interns worked more than 80 hours per week during the traditional schedule (mean, 84.9; range, 74.2 to 92.1). All interns worked less than 80 hours per week during the intervention schedule (mean, 65.4; range, 57.6 to 76.3). On average, interns worked 19.5 hours per week less (P<0.001), slept 5.8 hours per week more (P<0.001), slept more in the 24 hours preceding each working hour (P<0.001), and had less than half the rate of attentional failures while working during on-call nights (P=0.02) on the intervention schedule as compared with the traditional schedule. Eliminating interns' extended work shifts in an intensive care unit significantly increased sleep and decreased attentional failures during night work hours. Copyright 2004 Massachusetts Medical Society.
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        The new recommendations on duty hours from the ACGME Task Force.

         E Amis,  ,  Andrew S. Day (2010)
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          Work satisfaction of professional nurses in South Africa: a comparative analysis of the public and private sectors

           Rubin Pillay (2009)
          Background Work satisfaction of nurses is important, as there is sufficient empirical evidence to show that it tends to affect individual, organizational and greater health and social outcomes. Although there have been several studies of job satisfaction among nurses in South Africa, these are limited because they relate to studies of individual organizations or regions, use small samples or are dated. This paper presents a national study that compares and contrasts satisfaction levels of nurses in both public and private sectors. Methods This was a cross-sectional survey of professional nurses conducted throughout South Africa using a pretested and self-administered questionnaire. Univariate and bivariate statistical models were used to evaluate levels of satisfaction with various facets of work and to elicit the differences in satisfaction levels between different groups of nurses. A total of 569 professional nurses participated in the study. Results Private-sector nurses were generally satisfied, while public-sector nurses were generally dissatisfied. Public-sector nurses were most dissatisfied with their pay, the workload and the resources available to them. They were satisfied only with the social context of the work. Private-sector nurses were dissatisfied only with their pay and career development opportunities. Professional nurses in the more rural provinces, those intending to change sectors and those more likely not to be in their current positions within the next five years were also more likely to be dissatisfied with all facets of their work. Conclusion This study highlighted the overall dissatisfaction among South African nurses and confirmed the disparity between the levels of job satisfaction between the public and private sectors. Health managers should address those factors that affect job satisfaction, and therefore retention, of nurses in South Africa. Improving the work environment so that it provides a context congruent with the aspirations and values systems of nurses is more likely to increase the satisfaction of nurses and consequently have a positive effect on individual, organizational and health outcomes.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] University of Witwatersrand South Africa
            Contributors
            Role: ND
            Journal
            samj
            SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
            SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j.
            Health and Medical Publishing Group (Cape Town )
            2078-5135
            August 2012
            : 102
            : 8
            : 655-658
            S0256-95742012000800015

            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

            Product
            Product Information: SciELO South Africa
            Categories
            Health Care Sciences & Services
            Health Policy & Services
            Medical Ethics
            Medicine, General & Internal
            Medicine, Legal
            Medicine, Research & Experimental
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