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Doctors threaten lawsuit over call allowances

Limpho Sello

LOCAL medical doctors have threatened to sue the Health ministry for contempt of court. This after the ministry failed to pay them call allowances in line with a June 2020 Constitutional Court judgement.

The Lesotho Medical Doctors Association (LMDA) dragged the government to court last November after the Health ministry suspended the payment of the allowances citing financial constraints.  Doctors are paid M600 per month as call allowances for attending to patients and working outside their normal hours of employment.

On 24 June 2020, the constitutional court bench comprising of Justices Tšeliso Monapathi, Semapo Peete and Moroke Mokhesi ruled in favour of the LMDA. The court ruled that the decision of the first (Health minister) and second respondent (principal secretary of Health) to suspend payment of call allowances is declared unconstitutional for violating Section 4 (1) of the constitution”.

But three months after the judgement was delivered, the health ministry is yet to comply and pay the doctors.

LMDA spokesperson Dr Lerato Mothae said they were contemplating suing Health minister Motlatsi Maqelepo and the government for contempt of court for failing to pay them the call allowances.

“We are looking at suing the government because we believe what they are in contempt of the Constitutional Court by failing to pay us,” Dr Mothae said.

“They (Health ministry) still haven’t released any statement about the way forward regarding those allowances.

“We have been engaging the government through the Ministry of Health to pay the call allowances but they keep on ignoring us.

“We also approached the minister (Mr Maqelepo) but we have not got any positive response hence our resolution to go back to court,” Dr Mothae said.

He said instead of paying the call allowances, the government had resorted to victimisation and intimidation tactics which included introducing rosters to monitor doctors’ attendance to calls as well as demoting or transferring those who refused to honour calls without payment.

“The government cited financial constraints as its reason for stopping the payment of the call allowances. But every year before drawing up their budget, they already know that they are supposed to budget for our salaries and allowances.

“So, we are saying their failure to plan and draw up a proper annual budget is not supposed to affect us. We cannot be made to suffer for that. The allowances are part of our income and should be paid without fail,” Dr Mothae said.

Health minister Maqelepo and the health director general Dr ‘Malitaba Litaba’s mobile phones rang unanswered yesterday when this publication called them for comment.

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