MEC laments shortage of doctors

2012-02-24 00:00

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical School had 4 000 applicants last year but took in only 200 students.

 

“They were either unwilling or unable to take more,” said Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo during debate on the state of the province address (Sopa) yesterday.

Dhlomo was responding to criticism from opposition parties on the lack of doctors and other highly qualified health professionals in KZN.

DA leader Sizwe Mchunu asked how the province hoped to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme when there were not enough doctors.

The MEC said his department had sent 434 students to Cuba to study medicine and that this group was equal to the combined intake of the medicals schools of both UKZN and Wits.

Dhlomo said South Africa, with a population of 50 million, had only eight medical schools and this was a sad indictment when compared to a country like Cuba with a population of 11 million and 22 medical schools.

Speaking at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital earlier this year, Dhlomo said the doctor-to-patient ratio in Cuba was 1:450, while in South Africa, where many rural clinics had never seen a doctor, the ratio was1:10 000.

Dhlomo, and later KZN Premier Zweli Mkhize in his response to the debate, said they would strongly support any proposal from national government for another medical school in KwaZulu-Natal.

Dhlomo said KZN was gearing up for the NHI and that the bad news for the DA in the Western Cape was that of the 10 districts chosen to pilot the scheme, two would be in KZN.

“This was because the Western Cape declined to have NHI piloted in their province,” he said.

Western Cape Health MEC Theuns Botha, when contacted yesterday, said his province did not support the NHI in its current form.

Botha’s spokesperson, Helene Roussouw, said the MEC had not received any correspondence from the government about the NHI pilot site, and had not turned down a site.

The IFP raised the issue of KZN’s debt to the National Health Laboratory Services. Mkhize replied that the province believed it was being overcharged for the service, and the matter was under arbitration. He accused the IFP’s Blessed Gwala of being opportunistic in raising the matter, saying it was was not about politics but internal health issues.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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