Government knows skilled workers are looking to leave South Africa

 ·13 Jun 2022

The government will ‘do what is necessary’ to ensure skilled professionals do not leave the country in droves ahead of the planned introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI), says health deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp.

Health stakeholders have previously raised concerns that South Africa could see an exodus of doctors and other key medical personnel ahead of the planned introduction of the NHI scheme. There is also a growing concern that the country could lose valuable training skills as professionals look to leave.

Presenting the scheme to the parliament on Wednesday (8 June), Crisp said the department was anxious about possible staffing shortfalls in the healthcare sector and put plans in place that increased the number of graduates available for absorption into the system.

He added that his department faced funding issues, which had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that there was not enough money to pay for all the staffing vacancies. These funding issues extended to increased dependency on the public healthcare sector as more South Africans lost their jobs, while the budget decline had also affected the maintenance of facilities.

In March, civil society group Afriforum sent a letter to health minister Joe Phaahla and president Cyril Ramaphosa requesting that the government reconsider the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI). One of the key points of concern is an exodus of skilled workers from the country, it said.

It cited a 2021 poll from the South African Medical Association pointing toward a mass emigration of healthcare professionals in the event of the implementation of NHI.

“The recent confirmation by the minister of the severe shortages of doctors in South Africa is just another example of why a state-monopoly health sector will be catastrophic. This letter is an attempt to achieve a constructive dialogue with the government vis-à-vis NHI.

“However, if the letter falls on deaf ears, Afriforum will continue to oppose the proposed legislation with all the means available to us. Our fight against NHI is one of the most important battles on which the very future of this country depends,” said Reiner Duvenage, campaign officer for strategy and content at AfriForum.

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