Health minister backtracks on money problems for new doctors in South Africa

 ·14 Feb 2024

The government is working tirelessly to ensure that unemployed doctors who want to join the public service are placed by 1 April this year, Health Minister Joe Phaahla has announced.  

This follows an ongoing public outcry over doctors who have completed statutory community service programmes but remain unemployed.

“I am, therefore, happy to announce that working with the Minister of Finance, we have a solution to address the current challenge of doctors who want to stay in the public service but could not be offered funded posts,” said the Minister.

During the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Phaahla said the finance minister will flesh out more details on how these posts will be funded during his budget speech next week.

“Our national team is working with the National Treasury team to thrash out the details and working with provincial health departments to speed up the process so that by 1 April 2024, all those who will not be already in posts can be able to start.” 

Phaahla said he was confident that some provinces will even be able to start giving out appointment letters before 1 April. 

“The measures we are working on with the Minister of Finance will give us sufficient breathing space while we are working on long-term solutions.” 

He told Parliament that over the last 15 years, the government has ramped up the training of doctors both in the local universities and the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro programme in Cuba.

The number of graduates, according to Phaahla, has almost doubled over the last 10 years, from 1 338 graduates who entered the internship programme in 2014 to 2 210 this year.

“The medical profession is very key in the multidisciplinary teams, and that is why we are doing everything to retain as many doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and other members of the teams in the public health system as possible.”

In addition, he said his department was committed to working with the medical association and the trade union to look at more opportunities for doctors, including offering primary health services in the community as the State prepares to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI). 


He told the House that the government interventions are laying the foundation for the implementation of the NHI. 

Phaahla also took the time to thank members of both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) who passed the Bill last year. 

As stated in the Bill, he said the NHI will be implemented in two remaining phases from 2024 to 2026, while between 2026 and 2028, the government will focus on establishing the Board and CEO and several key committees of the NHI Fund. 

“We are confident that the innovative funding of infrastructure, as stated by the President, will also contribute to health facilities.” 

In the meantime, he said his department was strengthening key delivery areas. 

These include the healthcare benefits design, digital health systems, and risk identification and fraud prevention. 

Read: Nationwide strike looming in South Africa

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