Military battling to keep doctors

2014-07-23 13:49

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The military is losing doctors to the national department of health, the private sector and to other countries at an alarming rate.

It is also battling to effectively patrol the country’s borders, employing only 60% of the required force needed to properly police South Africa’s porous borders.

At a media briefing held today before tabling her budget vote in Parliament, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula revealed she had tasked a team led by University of KwaZulu-Natal Vice-Chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba to investigate why the military has over the past two years lost about 65 doctors.

She said Makgoba and his team had reported back, pointing out to a number of challenges including issues of pay and overtime and the conditions under which military doctors work.

Mapisa-Nqakula has now instructed the secretary for defence to implement the recommendations of the task team and put in place a retention plan.

Surgeon-General Zola Dabula said they were facing stiff competition from all sectors for medical skills and the military health services was suffering as a result.

“This pool of professionals is also scavenged by other sectors outside the department of health and the private sector together with the international community. The lines in terms of competition are high, in terms of recruitment and retention of such highly skilled individuals,” Dabula said.

It also emerged that it is costing R900 million to patrol the country’s borders, but more money is needed to deploy the required number of soldiers to effectively do so.

The defence force deploys 13 companies to the border but needs to deploy at least 22 companies to be able to keep watch of all hot spots on the borders.

Mapisa-Nqakula also revealed that the defence force had started an Educational Trust to help the orphans of soldiers who have died in the line of duty to further their education. So far the trust has raised R4.7 million from the private sector – including top soccer teams Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

It has assisted mainly those whose fathers died while deployed in the Central African Republic last year.

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