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Doctors protest poor security at S.African hospitals

Doctors marched to the seat of South Africa’s government Wednesday to protest poor security at public hospitals which they said was highlighted by the murder of a colleague by a patient.

About 200 doctors joined the march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria carrying signs that read “Served notice, going abroad” and “We risk our lives to save others”, the Sapa news agency reported.

The protest was sparked by the death last week of Senzosenkosi Mkhize, a doctor who was allegedly stabbed in the chest by a patient while on duty at Middleburg Hospital in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga.

“We are angry. I don’t think we can be consoled. We cannot have doctors being mugged, hijacked and murdered,” said Norman Mabasa, spokesman for the South African Medical Association (SAMA) which organised the march with the Junior Doctors’ Association.

The doctors handed a memorandum to a staffer for President Jacob Zuma demanding that police be deployed at all hospitals and that electronic scanners, metal detectors and concrete fences be installed at all health care facilities.

The memo said SAMA had repeatedly approached the health ministry about safety issues but had encountered “apathy and complete unwillingness” to address the concerns.

Doctors warned that a failure to deal with security problems would cause an exodus of medical professionals from public service.

South Africa has some of the highest rates of violent crime in the world, with about 46 murders a day.

Thousands of doctors staged a wildcat strike in 2009 after losing patience with what they said were abysmal working conditions in the country’s over-burdened public health system.