Monday, 15 April, 2024
HomeNews UpdateMedical groups slam Critical Skills List's focus on importing skills

Medical groups slam Critical Skills List's focus on importing skills

The government’s decision to amend its Critical Skills List, which paves the way for foreign specialist nurses and doctors to work in the public health sector, has incensed organisations representing medical professionals, who say the government has “long neglected the training of nurses”, accusing it of lack of foresight and of ignoring warnings.

Detractors say the sector was already on “life support” and the shortage of specialist doctors and nurses was the government’s fault, reports the Cape Argus.

The recently gazetted updated “critical skills” list from the Department of Home Affairs means foreign doctors can now be recruited to fill the skills deficit:
specialist doctors in more than 30 medical disciplines were listed as wanted, including surgery, dentistry, anaesthesiology, pathology, obstetrics and gynaecology.

The country also lacks specialist personnel skilled in five nursing disciplines, including paediatrics, intensive care and trauma care.

In an answer to a parliamentary question from the DA in May, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said the country’s doctor-to-patient ratio is 1:3 198, or 0.31 doctors per 1 000 patients. And doctors’ numbers were decreasing.

More than 21 000 specialist medical personnel posts are vacant across all provinces, which the national department has yet to fill.

Health Professional Council of South Africa’s spokesperson Christopher Tsatsawane singled out the “production rate” of specialists as the key reason for the shortages.

“Training institutions have not increased their capacity to produce specialists in line with the population growth. We also lack the infrastructure for training advanced

Department of Health’s spokesperson Foster Mohale said the biggest challenge was retaining skilled medical professionals as many were lured into emigration or private practice.

“This is a concern. Attractive salary package offers makes it difficult to retain some of them.” He said they hoped the “National Health Insurance Model” and the recently signed “Human Resources for Health 2030 Strategy” would alleviate such challenges.

Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA’s Sibongiseni Delihlazo said they were “extremely angry we have to import specialist nurses because of the government’s actions”.

Delihlazo accused the government of neglecting nursing for a long time, saying the number of nurses produced annually by the country was dropping instead of increasing, “and numerous nursing colleges have been shut”.

He said World Health Organisation studies on the state of nursing worldwide in April 2020 concluded there would be a 10m worldwide shortage of nurses by 2030.

For countries to avoid catastrophic consequences they needed to produce 8% new nurses every year.

“Our country has not adhered to the warning, but has done the opposite. Nurses are being held to ransom.”

Delihlazo said the country’s nurses were being targeted by first-world nations, and some recruitment agencies were permanently positioned in SA, scouting for local nurses.

“We could have produced our own nurses in a country with serious unemployment issues. The government doesn’t have a strategy to keep them,” he said.

Dr Anil Bramdev, spokesperson for the KZN Specialist Network, also took aim at the lack of registrar training posts. “Specialists can only be trained in state institutions. There are no private training facilities. There have been efforts to open some, but they were not given the required licences.

“We are totally dependent on public institutions attached to universities to train specialists. Registrar posts have been restricted in numbers and racial quotas.”

Bramdev said in some provinces specialist posts were frozen if candidates were not of a particular race group.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, head of Solidarity Doctors Network Advisory Board, said: “Before you can import new doctors from overseas you need to employ your own doctors. We have a critical shortage …The public sector is also in dire need of more specialists and even general practitioners, but there is no money to pay them. It’s good doctors are back on the scarce skills list, it makes it easier for them to come into the country, but there will be no huge influx, due to a lack of funds.”

Progressive Health Forum’s co-convener Aslam Dasoo said health professionals were leaving public healthcare due to a decline in the sector, and the “accompanying freezing of posts because of misspending created more shortages, adding to the burden”.

“Steady defunding of these services, from budgetary shrinkage, mismanagement, and medical negligence liability, to wastage and corruption, accounted for up to half of the healthcare budget being compromised, meaning staffing at every level of healthcare delivery is compromised.

“The fact that thousands of nurses and doctors remain unemployed in SA means the Critical Skills List is not a clear strategy to fill posts, except where particular specialist skills are not available here or for staffing in perennially underserved rural areas.

“This is not the case for staffing at administrative level, which is often bloated and a direct cause of budget depletion.”

Michele Clarke, the DA’s spokesperson on health, said the skills shortage was “unbelievable”.

“We should make available more training facilities, especially for nurses, and the government should look at partnering with the private sector regarding training. Public healthcare in our country is on life support.”


Cape Argus PressReader article – Wanted: foreign doctors, nurses (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Amended Critical Skills List a short-term fix to shortages, say health institutions


Medical posts added to revised Critical Skills List – finally


Medical interns from African countries struggle after removal from SA critical skills list


HASA chief: Medical omissions from Critical Skills List ‘incomprehensible’


Nursing council denies preventing private hospitals from training nurses



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