Medical crisis

Limpopo has the highest public sector doctor vacancy rate
in the country, at 86 percent, according to the latest the SA
Institute of Race Relations’ South Africa Survey, to be
published next week.
It was followed by the Northern Cape at 57 percent and the
Eastern Cape at 48 percent, the SAIRR said in a statement
on Thursday. The lowest vacancy rate was in North West, at
26 percent.
The SAIRR said South Africa had an overall vacancy rate of
56 percent for doctors in the public sector. The vacancy rate
refers to the proportion of total positions which are vacant.
The SAIRR said Limpopo also had the highest nurse vacancy
rate at 68 percent, followed by the Eastern Cape, 67
percent, and the Free State, 47 percent. North West had the
lowest rate at 12 percent.
South Africa had an overall nurse vacancy rate of 46 percent
in the public sector.
The SAIRR said it calculated the figures using health
department data on the number of public sector doctors
and nurses, and the number of public sector doctor and
nurse vacancies.
At the launch of the Human Resources for Health Strategy in
October 2011, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi attributed
the shortage of health professionals to a stagnation in their
training and production, inequitable distribution between
the public and private sectors, and emigration.
He said the department was working with health sciences
faculties and colleges of medicine to increase the intake of
medical students.
It had also entered into bilateral agreements with Cuba to
train South African students in medicine, and was hiring
retired health professionals to fill the vacancy gaps in the
SAIRR researcher Lerato Moloi said the high health
professional vacancy rates were a worrying trend, given the
proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme and its
"The three focal points of the NHI scheme, as outlined by
the [health department] are to ensure every South African
has access to quality health services, to decrease the
burden of disease, and to improve the overall performance
of the health system.
"With such vacancy rates, these objectives seem
unachievable," Moloi said.

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