Specialist nurses, chemists, dentists added to SA's critical skills list

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  • Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi included 41 specialised healthcare professional codes to the critical skills list.
  • This will see a range of healthcare professionals outside the country prioritised in South Africa's expatriate migration system.
  • Six categories of specialist nurses were included in the latest critical skills list, including trauma, pediatric, and midwifery nurses.
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A variety of specialised healthcare workers including chemists, specialist nurse educators, anesthesiologists, and dentists were added to the critical skills list this week. 

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi updated the critical skills list to include 41 professional codes in the healthcare sector, according to a notice in the government gazette. The critical skills list includes qualifications that the government's migration authorities commit to prioritising when allowing working expatriates to have a regulated legal stay in South Africa.

This is done to allow skills that are scarce locally into the country. The move is widely seen as a proactive response to the shortage of healthcare specialists in the South African job market. A shortage of nurses in the healthcare sector has even affected private hospitals.

READ | C-suite execs make the cut on the latest critical skills list

The Hospital Association of South Africa (Hasa) warned in a circular that the nurse shortages in South Africa placed an even heavier burden on practicing nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic, compounding "longer-term frustrations" and "deteriorating working conditions" in the profession.

"Those frustrations have been extensively studied and described over decades, in journals, newspapers, and conferences. The crisis in nursing has been building significantly since the consolidation of nursing colleges in the 1980s and 1990s," said Hasa chairperson Andre Joseph and Hasa CEO Dr Dumisani Bomela in a joint circular.

But Hasa warns that the challenges are more complex than it seems. They said assuming the nursing shortage could be resolved simply by employing nurses without jobs into previously unfunded posts would underestimate the extent of the crisis in specialised nurse categories.

READ | Top of the line: Should the critical skills list give CEOs an easier path to SA?

The critical skills list included six categories of specialist nurses, namely midwife specialists, child nursing, emergency nursing peri-operative nursing, mental health nursing, and critical care nursing.

According to a Business Day report, Netcare nursing education head Toy Vermaak said the healthcare provider went from qualifying 500 nurses a year to just 80, even though Netcare received 23 000 applications for just 130 training posts in the nursing profession.

The critical skills list includes specialists and dentists in the fields of oral pathology, oral surgery, and periodontics. The list also includes industrial pharmacists, radiation oncology specialists, psychiatrists, reconstructive plastic surgeons, virologists, forensic pathologists, and neurosurgeons. 

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