Doctors worry about hospital staff shortages

A survey conducted among 400 professional doctors show their main concerns are staffing levels at hospitals, as well as the restrictions of prescribed minimum benefits by medical schemes.

The survey, conducted by PPS,  a financial services company, showed that doctors were optimistic about their involvement in the National Health Initiative (NHI).

The head of group marketing and stakeholder relations at PPS, Gerhard Joubert, said the results were not surprising, with shortages at hospitals across the country well documented.

The chairperson of the South African Medical Association, Dr Mzukisi Grootboom, agreed with Joubert, saying that staffing levels in some provinces, particularly in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, were a growing challenge and the situation was becoming dire in certain areas.

Rural health facilities

Only 26% of doctors surveyed thought the current list of prescribed medical benefits (PMB) were sufficient and medical scheme issues were having an impact on the industry.

Dr Grootboom said it would never be sufficient as schemes were always challenging any attempt by the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) to make the list broader to cover more conditions.

“Strictly speaking, only cosmetic treatment should be excluded. In addition, most PMB’s are “hospital based” conditions and outpatient general practice type situations are wholly excluded.”

On a more positive note, 52% of respondents indicated that they would be prepared to enter into an agreement with the Department of Health to work part-time (for payment) at rural health facilities or so-called NHI pilot sites.

Joubert said this was an incredibly positive move, as past surveys conducted among medical professionals had shown some hesitance regarding the NHI.

“A year ago, only 59% of respondents were confident in the principle of NHI, but this had increased by seven percentage points to 66%.”

Include compensation

Dr Grootboom said doctors should be encouraged to participate in the NHI pilots, but they shouldn't be enslaved.

“There needs to be a clear contract that will detail what they are expected to do and how they will be remunerated.

"Part of the remuneration must consider the fact that when doctors or General Practitioners (GPs) leave their practices, expenses on the practice (such as salaries to staff, utilities etc) continue to be incurred.

"Remuneration must not only look at the professional fee, but must include compensation to cover some of those costs.

"Ideally, the patients on the NHI should be visiting GPs at their practices, but we understand that those systems have not been set-up yet.”

More information at

Photo of hospital operating theatre from Shutterstock.


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