There is a Doctor Shortage in South Africa

Dr Zweli Mkhize, Health Minister said that due to lack of funding, South Africa is facing a doctor and nurse shortage. 

In a recent Q&A, Mkhize said that the main reason for the shortage is that in the past 10 years, the budget for the public health sector has not increased in real terms, which means that the number of staff that can be appointed has been impacted. 

He went on to say that the country is going through an increased demand for health services, however, this change has not been addressed by additional funding. The increase in demand is mainly due to the increasing burden of disease and the increase in immigration into the country. 

South Africa is not the only one facing a shortage as it seems to be a global issue. However, the shortage is more noticeable in countries with low to middle income. This is because heath workers are more likely to emigrate to countries’ that are upper to middle income in the hopes of finding better working and living conditions. 

What About the NHI?

Another factor that may influence whether doctors choose to stay in the country is the incoming National Health Insurance. 

Critics of the NHI plan have said before that the major risk to the scheme is the leaving of medical skills. Some surveys have shown that 43% of respondents in the medical field would consider leaving the country once the scheme has been implemented. 

Craig Comrie, Profmed medical aid chief executive has said that they are already seeing health professionals emigrating. The general measure of 17% leaving the country each year rose to 30% in June and July. 

Mkhize said in an interview on the 8thOctober that the Department of Health is working on several plans to ensure that the required skills are in place for the successful implementation of the NHI. He was also asked how the government would be incentivising private sector doctors to work under the NHI and his response was simply to pay them.

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