Eastern Cape Health MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth, admitted to the provincial legislature that specialist units had a vacancy rate of close to 50% – but she said these numbers were pushed up by shortages of super-specialists, such as neurosurgeons, and that they were looking at recruiting more “general specialists”.
Daily Maverick reports that Meth was answering a question from the Democratic Alliance’s provincial spokesperson on health, Jane Cowley.
“These shocking statistics were revealed in response to my parliamentary questions to establish the nature and extent of unfilled posts at these hospitals. The unfilled posts stretch across a variety of departments, including neurosurgery, anaesthesiology, cardiology, obstetrics and gynaecology and paediatrics,” Cowley said.
“Not only do these specialists bring valuable skills to the institutions where they reside, they also play a vital role in passing these skills on to others. Skills that are vital in the proper treatment and care of patients, and the very same skills that are severely lacking in the province, which is one of the key drivers of medico-legal claims against the department,” Cowley said.
She said the department did not appear to have a plan to fill these posts, but it is understood that a meeting has been scheduled with the specialist units in Livingstone Hospital and Dora Nginza Hospital.
Meth said 23 of 41 positions for the head of a clinical unit were filled at Livingstone Hospital and 30 of 58 specialist posts. Only 160 of 269 posts were filled at one of the other tertiary hospitals in the province, Frere Hospital, and only 21 of 61 specialist jobs.
According to DM, Meth said she did not believe the hospital’s accreditation to train specialists was in danger. Some departments at the hospital, such as the departments of neurosurgery and ear, nose and throat surgeons, either had none or only part-time specialists.
“The current specialist vacancy rate does not pose a threat to the reaccreditation of the training platform as the main training domains (surgery, orthopaedics, internal medicine, obstetrics and maternal and child) have a much lower vacancy rate at an average of 20%. The higher vacancy rates are found in super specialist areas like neurosurgery,” Meth said.