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The South African healthcare sector continues to be confronted with a wave of challenges, a major one being the fact that it is underfunded.
So much has been said about healthcare in South Africa but much of the hullabaloo has not been centered on finding solutions to problems facing the sector.
South Africa’s Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize spoke about the shortage of health professionals in the country recently while responding to a parliamentary question.
“The primary reasons why South Africa has a shortage of doctors and nurses is the fact that the public health sector budget has not been increasing in real terms for the past 10 years, impacting on the number of staff that can be appointed,” he said.
Mkhize added that even as the demand for health services continues to increase, there lacks additional funding to cater for the changes which he said: “results primarily from immigration and the increasing burden of disease.”
The picture is much bleaker in the wake of the National Health Insurance scheme as surveys show that a significant number of doctors consider emigrating.
Despite government attempts to set fees doctors and dentists should charge, those working in the private sector have been deciding on the amounts to charge. With the NHI scheme, however, practitioners will only be able to charge the rates prescribed, a scenario that has not gone quite well with practitioners in the private sector.
Research conducted earlier by the trade union group Solidarity found that 83.2 percent of healthcare workers believed that private health professionals will leave the country if the NHI is implemented.
Most South African doctors emigrate to developed countries the majority of whom go to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the US, and the UK.
What motivates their migration is dissatisfaction with remuneration packages as public sector workers get paid low wages compared to their private-sector counterparts. An earlier report by the South African Medical Association showed that doctors in the public sector were underpaid by up to 200 percent compared with those in the private sector.
Other push factors are a lack of equipment and medical provisions, a heavy workload, and poor working conditions.
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