3 big reasons why doctors may look at leaving South Africa

New rules implemented from 1 July will require all South African students who study overseas to complete a one-year bridging course at a local university when returning to the country.

Speaking to IOL, health department representative Gavin Steel said the reason for the policy change was that at some foreign universities – especially in China and Mauritius – students did not receive sufficient practical training.

He added that these graduates were also not exposed to diseases such as HIV/Aids and tuberculosis at foreign universities, while they were prevalent in South Africa.

However, a number of students have complained that they were not sufficiently consulted on the rule-change before it was implemented.

The policy states graduates who study at foreign universities must declare this with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) going forward, and that the foreign university should be recognised by the council.

Spokesperson Fezile Sifunda said there were 1,570 foreign-qualified South African medical practitioners registered with the council.

Regulate where you work 

The rule-change follows a recent recommendation by the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) to consider regulating where private sector doctors and specialists work, so as to distribute their services more evenly across the country.

Its research showed that almost half (22,802) of the health-care professionals working in private practice in 2017 were in Gauteng, which is home to about a quarter of South Africa’s population.

The BHF’s head of research, Charlton Munrove, said other approaches to licensing should also be considered – including incentivising doctors to work in certain areas.

This follows similar recommendations made by the Competition Commission’s health market inquiry, which recommended that the health department develop a new framework for licensing all health-care facilities.

While its emphasis is on private hospitals, the inquiry said licensing could be extended beyond acute facilities over time.

Leave the country

Another major concern raised by South African doctors is the implementation of a planned National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

According to a report by Solidarity’s Research Institute, the overall sentiment among healthcare professionals towards the NHI is generally negative, with many complaining about a lack of information around the whole scheme, and worries that the plans will completely destabilise healthcare in the country.

While some indicated that they were sufficiently knowledgeable about the NHI scheme, a major complaint among respondents was that the whitepapers presented by the health department in June were too vague and lacked any detail about the functioning and implementation of the NHI.

One of the most worrying findings in the survey was that 83.2% of healthcare workers believed that private health professionals will leave the country if the NHI is implemented. 43% of the respondents said that they themselves would consider emigrating.

There was also a firm belief that the scheme would completely destabilise the country’s healthcare as a result. The major points of concern are:

  • Shortages of specialists, doctors, nursing staff and other healthcare workers;
  • Financial management of the NHI;
  • Purchasing and distribution of medicines and equipment; and
  • Maintenance of infrastructure and equipment.

Read: New calls to regulate where South African doctors can work

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3 big reasons why doctors may look at leaving South Africa