Netcare has again prodded the government about the acute shortage of nurses and appealed for an urgent response to the situation, saying the shortage and the low output from nursing education institutions needed to be prioritised to meet current and future healthcare demand.
The country is short of between 26 000 and 62 000 nurses, both public and private, with the gap expected to grow to between 131 000 and 166 000 by 2030, according to Business Report.
“SA’s Human Resources for Health Strategy for 2030 predicts a shortage of around 34 000 registered nurses in primary healthcare by 2025,” Netcare said. “The supply-demand mismatch is driven primarily by increased demand from population growth, an ageing population, the growing disease burden, and nurse retirements and emigration outpacing the supply of new nurses.”
In 2021, there were 58% fewer nursing students in the country than in 2012.
The group added that healthcare systems worldwide were facing record post-pandemic backlogs, “driving an insatiable demand for healthcare professionals, with many South African doctors and nurses electing to emigrate”.
“The doctor-to-population ratio in SA is on the decrease with contributing factors being the country’s limited capacity to train doctors (private medical schools are prohibited), an ageing specialist population, the escalating cost of professional liability insurance for specialists, emigration and uncertainty around the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI).”
Meanwhile, last month, Netcare MD Jacques du Plessis said Netcare used to train thousands of nurses annually, but as it awaits accreditation, it had to reject applicants and cut the number of trainees.
In 2017, he said, Netcare Education trained some 3 000 nurses.
“Today, we are training around 1 000… impact of the South African Nursing Council’s (SANC) lengthy process to phase out legacy nursing qualifications and its restrictions on student intake numbers for the new nursing qualifications.”
In the 2022 financial year, only 21% of the student intake it applied for was approved by SANC.
Netcare board chair Thevendrie Brewer said the deepening shortage of nurses was critical for the group.
Brewer said Netcare’s efforts to expand healthcare access required the government to be amenable to exploring partnering models with the private sector.
Apart from the private sector’s ability and desire to alleviate the nursing shortage, “the excess capacity in the private sector, which includes fully functional hospitals available for sale, can be utilised for public sector patients – the proviso being that a mutually beneficial business model can be agreed on”, she said.
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