This junior doctor is exposing harassment and racism in our hospitals

Yumna Moosa, a graduate of the University of Cape Town, was working as an intern to earn her qualification as a medical doctor when she experienced harassment at the hands of her supervisors. She released a video on Friday detailing the harassment and humiliation that a senior doctor put her through.

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When Moosa reported this harassment, she recorded the conversation with the senior doctors and placed it in a video.

The recordings are from a formal meeting with management and show a senior doctor advising her to destroy her logbook in which she recorded the incident and feedback she got about it and instead note down that what she said “was inappropriate”.

Their argument was that no one else had complained.

Moosa however found five other junior doctors who have submitted a case at this hospital. It’s not that no one had complained, it’s that they were scared of what would happen to them.

Speaking to The Daily Vox, Moosa said other people had also confided in her their experiences at the hospital. She says others who complained were told, “remove your complaint or I won’t sign you off.”

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She thinks that these things happen because medicine is a very old institution headed by men.

“Medicine in particular is very old school and it’s this strange old boys club that prepares us to have this inflated sense of self. I think the internship is like this initiation where they treat you badly so that you’re ready to take on a new position in the hierarchy afterwards,” she said.

After she had made the complaint the head of the department wrote that after two years of internship, Moosa had worse clinical skills than a university grad and needed to be retrained “because she was unsafe”.

“In order to assist my career they were sabotaging it so that I would learn a lesson in what it means to be a good doctor, and so would my colleagues,” she says in the video.

They also told her that they’re considering removing the feedback section from logbooks so other junior doctors don’t “get into trouble”.

Moosa pointed out that this is not unique to South Africa.

“It happens in Belgium, it happens in the UK, obviously it happens in the states. It happens everywhere,” she said.

She likens medicine at an organisational level to a military hierarchy, and says that she doesn’t see why it’s necessary for things to be like that.

“I honestly believe in the healing power of kindness and mutual respect, and the importance of honest communication to avoid deadly mistakes,” she said in the video.

She wants this video to give others hope to speak out against this harassment, she says people need to start objecting to what is happening.

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“Lots of things happen to you but when you see it happening, because all of it is written and every single medical student, every single intern, every single junior doctor has witnessed this and has been silent about it,” she said.

She says that this has been a long process but that the institutions to get help, the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) and HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa), are working on it.

“We want this to be a positive story, so we don’t want it to discourage people from complaining and speaking out,” she said.

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24 Comments

  1. Rustum Kozain says

    Good job on the part of Yumna Moosa recording these meetings.

    In addition to the sexism, racism and protectionism in operation here, what is also shocking is the social ignorance of these seniors – their behaviour is unprofessional. And they seem to have not one single empathetic bone in their bodies, something one would expect from doctors. Damn.

    And it speaks to the mediocrity of training and education in our institutions. Technical skill in a field is one thing, but if you don’t have the nous for dealing with social aspects…

    I hope there “managers” are at the least heavily censured for how they failed to deal with a complaint by one of their colleagues.

  2. Shehnaaz says

    Can’t begin to imagine how Yumna must have felt.
    Good on her for recording it all!
    .

  3. Sal says

    What an incredibly brave and principled young (unfortunately former) doctor. It’s sad that the senior docs are more worried about their own egos than the well-being of young doctors and their patients. The racism was shocking and their ignorance of what racism is was quite scary. These dinosaurs need to change or be removed.

  4. jorge says

    incredible! hope authorities act!

  5. shamima says

    This is pathetic and should be brought to an abrupt halt. is there a way to contact you Yumna i believe powerful organisations need to back you.

  6. Abrar Jones says

    This video is basically like someone taking their bad day and turning into an animated video. Thanks for wasting a solid 8 minutes.

    1. Abrar Twat says

      Being sexually harassed and then being told not to report it lest you lose your job is not just ‘a bad day’ you twat.

    2. Vasti Hannie says

      If someone is treating you this way at work, it’s not a bad day, and you need to report them. This kind of systemic racism and sexism is detrimental to everyone and we need to be better. Dint let anyone tell you this is a “bad day”. You’re afforded job security if you do your job well, and you’re entitled to a workplace without harassment.

  7. Lyndsay says

    Thank you Yumna for taking a stand. I support you 100% and know that this fight will make South African hospitals safer and South Africa better. You are an everyday hero.

  8. Keshia says

    We need more females like you. What a strong lady you are.

  9. Zorina Dharsey says

    Yumna you are incredibly brave! You are an inspiration to many women out there, young and old. The only way to change old evil practices is to be brave and bold and to speak out against them. We have to stand firm against ALL injustices, whenever or wherever we encounter them. I SALUTE you!

  10. shaakira says

    Wow… it is doctors like Yumna that we really do need in our state hospitals. That can rectify the rights from the wrongs. We as citizens of this country is equally being treated as bad as Yumna has been treated. And everyday a blind eye is being turned.

    I am proud of you Yumna…

  11. Naseema says

    Abrar, this young woman has studied SIX long hard years, then slogged harder than you can imagine through 2 years of internship, before feeling she has no choice but to give it up.
    Sounds like she’s really standing up for her beliefs. Bit more than a hard day’s work…

    Academics can be an arrogant bunch, doctors most especially.
    I doubt she’s exaggerating in the least.

  12. James says

    Wow… I thought we went through a lot during law articles. They did batter us but it was nowhere near what this young lady went through.

  13. jeanne says

    this woman is amazing – I am so sorry that the people she worked with are so BAD. “Act of God, not acting like a doctor, inappropriate.” My word, this is appalling. She should be lauded , held up as an example. What a foul system. I admire your courage!!

  14. Lizette Gomes says

    WELL DONE dr. Moosa. I salute you for coming forward and sharing the inside politics of medicine. I hope this will teach consultants and HOD not to mess with the loner. Medicine was thousands of years of work compiled together and we don’t need boys clubs to ruin the art.

  15. kathy says

    These attitudes originate at a much deeper level throughout many societies and affect women in every aspect of their lives. When I read about the way women are treated in India and Pakistan for example, honour killings, aborting female foetus’s, arranged marriages and rampant rapes. Women sold as sex slaves by pimps from Eastern Europe and discrimination against women at a much more subtle level in Western Society. My question is this, why do woman raise their sons to treat women in this way, they have to be complicit at some level to allow this to continue.

  16. Ahmed says

    A very easy exercise is to interview foreign interns from Africa and other Middle Eastern Countries and you will expose the horrendous silent prejudices perpetrated against them. These doctors endure the discriminatory attitudes of the so called old boys in fear of not meeting the qualifying criteria. Often they are at breaking point. We need regulatory oversight on Labour conditions at state hospitals and it must start now. This circus must end as it is putting medical ethics to shame.

  17. Doc1 says

    They tried it with me too . All i can say is mess with the wrong dude and you will pay dearly. Revenge is sweet.

    Forget video rec i humiliated them in ways you cannot fathom.
    God i love working in SA.

  18. Doc sarguro says

    I slapped them on the spot. Went thru same thing. I will slap em again if they racist. Kyokushin u gotta love it

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