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Nursing shortage could spike to 300 000, new report finds

South Africa's nursing shortage could escalate to more than 300 000 within the next decade, a new report says, although thousands of unemployed nurses are currently sitting at home and readily available.

South Africa has a current shortage of about 26 000 to 62 000 professional nurses, but, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa), on International Nurses Day on 12 May. MedicalBrief reports.

But Denosa spokesperson Sibongiseni Delihlazo said: “There are 20 000 unemployed nurse, available in at least eight provinces, except for the Northern Cape which has not had an intake of student nurses at its nursing college in three years.”

According to the data, Gauteng had about 10 000 unemployed nurses, followed by Free State with 5 000, Limpopo with 3 000, Mpumalanga with 2 000, Western Cape with 1 000, North West with 500, Eastern Cape had 350, and there were 200 unemployed nurses in KwaZulu-Natal.

A recent report titled, “The Nursing Community Service Programme: The Answer to rural health system challenges”, said that South Africa had a shortage of between 26 000 and 62 000 professional nurses, estimating that by 2030, the demand would increase to between 305 000 and 340 000.

It also found that the shortage of specialised and new nurses means residents in outlying areas face significant challenges, with rural areas dominating the 10 worst-performing districts in maternal and infant healthcare.

In the study, the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP) explored whether community service for nurses could be repurposed to meet the failures and problems in the system, including the ageing demographic of the profession, identified as a major contributor to the crisis.

“According to the District Health Barometer 2019/20…a persistent shortage of nurses threatens key sustainable development goal targets, such as those concerning maternal and child health,” the report said, adding that more nurses were vital in rural areas, especially midwives, maternity nurses and paediatric nurses.

It said training more of these “might help reduce medico-legal claims because most of these claims are related to maternity and paediatric services”, reports News24.

If the nursing shortage were not addressed, it would jeopardise the realisation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and key sustainable development goals, primarily the United Nations’ goal to promote the well-being of people of all ages.

According to the report, as of 2019/20, just more than half of the 3 472 fixed primary healthcare facilities had achieved ideal clinic status, defined as having good infrastructure, adequate staff, adequate medicine and supplies, good administrative processes and sufficient adequate bulk supplies.

Provinces with large rural coverage, like Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, all performed below the average for ideal clinic status.

The reports suggested funds be ring-fenced for community service in rural provinces.

Other recommendations include a rural-friendly mentoring programme, which draws on local institutional and individual capacity.

Denosa has urged the government and employers to adopt the International Council of Nurses’ 10 policy actions to salvage the ailing healthcare system.

These include expediting strategies to recruit and retain nurses, implement and finance national nursing workforce plans and accredited nursing programmes, enabling nurses to work to their full scope of practice, and valuing their knowledge, skills and expertise, among other things.

Public healthcare facilities were swamped by overcrowding, gross shortages of staff, low pay and constant reduction in health budgets, leading to the procurement of fewer medicals, resources and equipment, Delihlazo said.

Meanwhile, Life Healthcare group chief executive Peter Wharton-Hood has expressed concern that Life Healthcare was able to train up to 3 000 nurses a year, which would help address the shortfall, but was currently only accredited to train 800.

“They are the backbone of any healthcare system, and we are being denied the opportunity to invest in the next generation of nurses,” he said.

IND_2023_Charter_EN Rural-Health-System_Nursing-Community-Servicer-Program-REPORT


SA has 20 000 unemployed nurses ready to alleviate pressure in public health facilities – Denosa (Open access)


News24 article – Rural health systems suffering as shortage of nurses bites – report (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Nursing Council resists training of new nurses, despite dire shortage, HASA conference told


Surgery catch-up stymied by South Africa’s shortage of ICU nurses


Critical shortages of ICU staff mean bottlenecks and untrained nurses


Massive UK nursing shortage sucks in Kenyan, South African and Zimbabwean nurses







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