South Africa should recruit foreign doctors

Dr Clarence Mini of Africa Health Placements, an organization dedicated to recruiting more doctors to South Africa’€™s underserved rural areas, told delegates at the plenary session that the country could not afford to decline the services of these doctors.

‘€œThey are here and instead of making them car attendants, let’€™s get them into our hospitals,’€ said Mini.

He said the delays caused by bureaucracy had resulted in many losses of foreign doctors keen to work in South Africa’€™s rural areas, where the doctor to patient ratio can be as low as three doctors to 100 000 patients.

This is compared to ratios of 15 to 100 000 in the public sector’€™s urban institutions. The United States has 550 doctors for every 100 000 patients.

Figures from the South African Health Review reveal that 82 percent of South African citizens rely on the public health sector with only 27 percent of general practitioners opting to work for the State.

Mini said it was baffling that the eight medical schools in South Africa have been producing the same number of doctors for years, despite the critical shortages and increasing population.

‘€œBetween the eight medical schools they produce 1 200 doctors a year. We have figures that show around 500 South Africa qualified doctors working in New Zealand, 1 300 in Canada, 3 000 in the United Kingdom and 2 000 in the United States. This is while we have over 4 000 doctor vacancies in the public sector,’€ said Mini.

‘€œThere are currently more South African qualified doctors working abroad than in the public sector,’€ he said.

Mini added that between the eight medical schools they produced around 40 doctors who end up working in rural areas. ‘€œWith funding we received we have placed twice that number and our target this year is to place 120 doctors,’€ he said.

Mini said it was important to learn from countries that managed to overcome similar crises.

Around 15% of doctors currently working in South Africa are foreign qualified. The average in developed countries is around 25%. However, South Africa’€™s human resource plan has set a target of 5%.

‘€œRecruiting foreign doctors is much cheaper than training a doctor ‘€“ R2-million per doctor compared to R100 000 to recruit,’€ Mini said.

Speaking from the floor, health department director general Thami Mseleku said the reality was different. He said the health minister from the DRC and Zambia were begging him to send their doctors home and to not employ them. ‘€œWhat must I do? How can we tell the UK not to recruit our doctors if we do the same,’€ he asked.

Mini reminded Mseleku that ‘€œwe are living in a globalised world. We have doctors from the DRC in our country, we can’€™t put them on a bus and send them back to the DRC,’€ he said. ‘€“ health-e news se


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    Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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