The lead story in Tuesday’s The Herald (“Township doctors under siege”) compels me to articulate something also long overdue.
The siege of township doctors is only half of the story.
There has been a spate of identical armed robberies on doctors in the northern areas for more than a year now, some having being robbed more than once, with the doctors, patients and staff all becoming victims.
This abhorrent criminal behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.
It is indeed disgusting when sick people, often children and the elderly, are not safe in a doctor’s waiting or consulting room. When is this going to stop? I remain shocked and dismayed at the predicament of these doctors.
It is these very doctors who bring an essential service right to the doorstep of the communities they serve, some poor or underprivileged.
These doctors have given the best years of their lives to the community.
Many have worked evenings to ensure services to patients who often themselves work late and do shift work.
So what kind of security measures must a doctor have in place when these abhorrent criminals so craftily pose as patients and proceed to rob at gunpoint?
All the security measures are useless when a supposedly “new patient” requests to see the doctor!
How does a receptionist identify who she should not allow in?
Many doctors are already practising with multiple security measures in place, but still cannot ensure their patients’ or their own safety.
In the northern areas these criminals are often not from the communities that are being targeted.
I feel that this growing type of crime is not just a doctor issue, or not just a police or community issue, but needs urgent steps to be taken at local, provincial and national level, seeing that the family doctor is now a dying breed with the average age being 60, while younger graduates opt for specialisation or foreign lands.
Yet another precious resource in this country is being wiped out, while there seems to be no urgency by the authorities to act.