200 of SA’s trained medical specialists ‘disappear’ per year

2013-10-29 12:40

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About 600 medical specialists qualify from South Africa’s eight medical schools every year, but fewer than 400 end up practising in South Africa.

Even that figure is a bone of contention because some of the specialists registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa are not practising in the country, Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) president Sam Mokgokong said in Cape Town today.

Speaking at the Hospital Association of SA conference, Mokgokong said this was an unfortunate situation because the country was in dire need of specialists because of the increasing burden of disease.

Although he fell short of saying that specialists were leaving South Africa for greener pastures, he indicated that many who qualify every year end up not practising.

“We do not know how many of the 12 313 work in the private and the public sector. We also have no idea how many of them are practising in the country. What we do know is that of the 600 who qualify every year, between 350 and 400 register with the HPCSA and we don’t know where the rest go,” he said.

More than 12 300 specialists were registered with the HPCSA this year. Although the figure has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years, Mokgokong said it wasn’t enough to cater to the needs of South Africans.

Some of the contributing factors to the brain drain mentioned at the conference were the increasing rate of litigation against specialists and poor working conditions as well as long hours that specialists have put in.

Dr Adri Kok, president of the Faculty of Consulting Physicians of SA, said: “Young doctors are afraid to specialise in South Africa because of litigation and even those who want to, don’t have the R230 000 required for indemnity insurance before they start practising.”

She said government needed to look at this contributing factor if it really wanted to address this problem.

On the issue of specialists leaving South Africa for greener pastures, professor of medicine at the University of Cape Town Bongani Mayosi explained that local specialists were the most sought after commodity around the world because of the highly specialised and quality training they receive in the eight medical schools.

In the same breath, Mayosi expressed concern that many newly qualified specialists are without jobs in South Africa because the public sector cannot absorb them. He called on the private healthcare sector to hire these specialists.

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