Statement: Rural health workers call for action to regulate, support community service in understaffed areas

Statement: Rural health workers call for action to regulate, support community service in understaffed areasPilani10_A Rural nurse in the eastern cape

The Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) responds to Constitutional Court case brought against the Minister of Health and the Health Professions Council of South Africa by a junior doctor.

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The Constitutional Court  dismissed on 19 February 2014 a case brought before it by junior doctor Miquel Desroches against the Minister of Health and the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Desroches made headlines at the beginning of 2014 for challenging the regulations and the conditions of community service, arguing that the working conditions faced by junior doctors are unconstitutional.

Desroches referred to the lengthy working hours, low salary and forced placement in an area outside of his choosing for the duration of his community service period.

Even though the case was dismissed, the application brought the concept of community service, and some of the challenges with its implementation, back into the public domain, according to RHAP.

In this statement, RHAP and partners such as the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa set out recommendations for improvements in recruitment and retention policies aimed at staffing the country’s rural areas, including:

  • Careful selection procedures for students wishing to study medicine or other health science degrees,  giving increased preference to students from rural area or with the intent to work in rural areas after graduation;
  • Urgent development of staffing norms for district hospitals, so that there are sufficient senior doctors, and rehab professionals, to support and mentor the junior doctors and rehab staff; and
  • Adoption of detailed regulations and clear policy guidelines by national and provincial departments of health that facilitate human resource allocations in an equitable, transparent manner.

Read the full statement: RHAP Position Statement Community Service Concourt Case