The University of the Witwatersrand has warned that South Africa faces a critical shortage of expert medical specialists, including surgeons.
It is estimated that there is a need to double the current number of surgeons to meet the country’s requirements fully, the university said.
In addition, South Africa has been losing many surgical experts to the competitive overseas market due to the lack of sufficient highly specialised facilities, infrastructure, and advanced academic training programmes.
“Wits trains more doctors, surgeons, specialists and sub-specialists than any other university in southern Africa,” said Professor Damon Bizos, head of Wits Surgical Gastroenterology and the Clinical Head of Surgery at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre
“We need to replenish these specialised skills and replicate them in adequate measure to deliver essential services to South Africans and Africans.”
This was echoed by Wits vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, who said that the loss of these skills would have a direct impact on the quality of healthcare in South Africa.
“If we fail to replenish the pool of surgeons in South Africa, both the training of all South African doctors and the delivery of healthcare for all will be compromised.
“South Africa needs to retain highly skilled and specialised surgeons. By creating opportunities for doctors to undergo highly specialised training locally, rather than abroad, the likelihood of losing these doctors to other countries is lessened.”
New R22 million lab
Bizos said that Wits aims to combat this brain drain through a new R22 million Advanced Surgical Skills Lab, which launched this week.
The lab will help enhance the training of surgeons across disciplines in a state-of-the-art environment, with the best equipment available, he said.
Bizos said the lab would cater for the interdisciplinary training needs of surgical disciplines such as:
- General surgery;
- Ear, nose and throat;
- Plastic surgery.
“The basic and intermediate courses will help inculcate basic surgical competence and skills development, whilst advanced courses will ensure that experienced practitioners remain at the forefront of advances in the field,” said Bizos.
“We will offer access to in-house training as well as industry-sponsored surgical training courses and symposia. Train-the-trainer programmes and research into skills training will also be integral.”