Doctors still in critical shortage

2011-08-28 16:20

Cape Town - The standards that medical faculties are trying to uphold must not prevent sufficient doctors being trained to relieve the country’s healthcare burden.

Director general of Health Precious Matsoso this week told the parliamentary budget committee that the number of doctors that graduate each year has not changed for the past 17 years, despite the country’s burden of disease.

South Africa has a unique fourfold healthcare problem (a reference to the equal contributions of HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, mother and child mortality, non-communicable disease, and injury).

The question is: how can the country respond to the rights of the sick in an appropriate manner if the same number of doctors is being produced year after year?

About 1 200 doctors complete their training every year. Matsoso said some of these moreover leave the country. About 23% of community service doctors leave the country annually.

The department recently published for comment its draft strategy for human resources in the healthcare industry. Part of the strategy is to forecast the numbers that will be required, “so that academic institutions can prepare for them”.

Initial forecasts of the costs and shortage of personnel are set out in the draft. A shortfall of more than 4 000 doctors is indicated.

Matsoso said that Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in discussion with the deans of the country's medical faculties, asked them why the same number of doctors was being produced year after year.

Their response was apparently that the faculties wanted to “maintain standards”.

But, she asked, what are these standards that undermine the need to alleviate the country’s healthcare problem.

It's more important to relieve the burden. Quality has to be linked to it in some other way.

Then, she said, a decision must be made about the additional requirement to raise appropriate funding to achieve the numbers needed.

The University of the Witwatersrand has been asked to take in 40 previously disadvantaged students in a trial project to determine the associated costs.

The Nelson Mandela Medical School at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has announced that it is also prepared to increase numbers.

“The other option, if we don't train doctors, is to go to countries like Libya and Iraq and recruit doctors from there.

“Is that where South Africa wants to go? I don't think so.”

  • Vela Stardust - 2011-08-28 17:45

    "Matsoso said that Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in discussion with the deans of the country's medical faculties, asked them why the same number of doctors was being produced year after year." Very interesting question. So is "why are white males wanting to study medicine denied due to race quotas"? Whose stupid idea was that to start off with?

  • John Galt - 2011-08-28 22:24

    Well what is the pass rate? We cannot afford to let standards drop. It would help if the working environment and pay did not encourage locally trained people to emigrate either. And government wants to start the NHI!!! With what doctors and nurses? As Clem Sunter identifies, our biggest export is skills and graduates. The question of university admittance policies also arises eg, UCT, UP etc

  • SC - 2011-08-29 13:39

    I wonder how many more training hospitals have been built in the last 17 years? Here's a thought...maybe the Health minister should talk to the Higher Education Minister and ask him to build more facilities for the training of more doctors...although you still need skilled people to teach.

  • bradleybrits - 2012-01-07 10:11

    There are a number of problems and they just refuse to address the issues. 1) 25% of doctors leave after community service. They had the opportunity 2 or so years ago to address the issues of remuneration when the doctors went on strike. The only area of pay they addressed was internship doctor salaries. Across the board, medical officer, registrar and consultant/specialists were left completely unsatisfied with something like a 2% increase and hence still leave. The working environment is shocking! Very poorly trained nurses and sisters, equipment which is always broken and medication which is always out of stock. It just is literally impossible to work effectively in the environment as it is in government hospitals. 2) Importing doctors from iraq etc Why not import doctors from the first world. It will improve the scope of people who can carry out training. But that would require increasing salaries dramatically and improvement of working environment 200% before any of those doctors would be interested in coming to work here! First world medicine is expensive. It really is. Its very scientific and specialised and it costs money to train people and supply equipment and medication etc. Our government recognises that education and health are in critical condition but just wont spend the money it will require to turn it around.They'd rather give R250million to councilors as bonuses than get the NHLS out of debt or improve salaries of skilled physicians/ build new med schools

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