South Africa

South African doctors flee state hospitals for private sector

South African doctors are fleeing from state hospitals to work at their private sector counterparts as the government no longer has the funds to absorb newly qualified doctors into the public system. 

This is feedback from the chairperson of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa, who told Newzroom Afrika that this situation has even pushed some doctors to leave the country. 

His comments come on the back of it being revealed that 800 qualified doctors are not being employed in public health posts because of a shortage of funds.

“Annually, the department cites budget constraints as a barrier to hiring qualified medical doctors, yet no substantial measures are evident to solve the funding dilemma,” the SAMA Trade Union (Samatu) said last week.

“This contributes immensely to the web of factors that prompt the continuous emigration of qualified doctors,” the union said. 

Mzukwa also said the government is concealing the number of openings at state hospitals by not replacing retiring doctors. It is instead erasing their positions entirely. 

He added that the state’s inability to absorb newly qualified doctors is also due to its failure to plan for the future and use its resources effectively and adequately. 

While the healthcare budget has been gradually cut, the Department of Health has not had a clear understanding of the resources the department needs and how this may change in the future. 

“This is a serious problem for the state because they have been scapegoating doctors for going to the private sector, but they cannot absorb those doctors,” Mzukwa said. 

“The problem is you are leaving the public healthcare sector in a dire state because there is a shortage of staff, and those that remain are overwhelmed.”

This, in turn, has a chilling effect on future doctors who are wary of working in the state-run system because of the workload and deteriorating work conditions. 

“In the state system, there is a dire shortage of healthcare workers, especially doctors. In rural areas, the shortage is particularly dire,” he said. 

The shortage of healthcare workers extends from nurses to highly trained specialists whom the public sector is also unable to employ for various reasons. 

Mzukwa said many of these specialists end up working in the private sector, leaving the country, or remaining in their current posts rather than filling a specialised role.


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