More than 150 doctors and their spouses from around the country gathered to celebrate their unique and historic contributions at a glitzy reunion of the Eastern Cape Medical Guild held at The Radisson Blu Hotel in Summerstrand on Saturday.
Members of the body played a crucial role in the 1980s and early ‘90s unrest, and worked to ensure quality healthcare for largely black, coloured and Indian communities under the apartheid regime.
The reunion is the first time in decades that they have gathered together to commemorate their work and to honour one another.
Due to the racial climate at the time, the guild became a fraternity for doctors who fought discriminatory practices by medical aids and who put their own safety on the line to treat political prisoners and those injured in riots, who were too afraid to use public hospitals.
Dr Jay Moodliar, a past president of the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (Pebco), delivered the keynote speech at the function.
“It was often asked what it was that moved the doctors to get together and form a close fraternity to fight the issues of the day,”Moodliar said.
“One of the main things that brought us together was the Midlands Chamber Group medical scheme and, through negotiating with the group, we were able to recreate a better situation for the patients where they could choose which doctor they wanted to see,” he said.
“In 1982, we were fortunate enough in achieving our mandate of getting a flat fee for service as per the Government Gazette which was R5 per patient and we had to make a concession in terms of medication, which was capped at R6.50,”Moodliar said
While the guild had focused on the financial side they also concentrated on the general social upliftment of the community through launching a bursary scheme for dental and medical students.
Dr Val Moodley, who served as chairman of the Northern Guild for three years between 1982 and 1985, spoke of the controversy that surrounded Life Mercantile Hospital, as it is known today.
“I insisted that the facility be opened to the community as it made good business sense and today the facility is open to people across the racial line and I am very proud of that,” he said.
Moodley’s vision for business models for doctors involves the establishment of joint practices.