Critical shortage of doctors in SA – less than 1 doctor for every 1 000 patients

Issued by Michele Clarke MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
09 May 2022 in News

South Africa has a critical shortage of doctors, with less than one doctor to treat 1 000 patients.

In an answer to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Minister for Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, revealed that the country’s doctor to patient ratio is 1:3 198 – 0.31 doctors per 1 000 patients. And the number of doctors is on the decrease. In 2019, we had 0.79 doctors per 1 000 patients – already poor when compared to the United Kingdom (3.03), India (0.93), Brazil (2.32), and Mexico (2.44).

This shocking state of affairs persists despite the more than 21 000 specialist medical personnel posts which are vacant across all nine provinces, and which the national Department of Health have yet to fill.

The critical shortage was created by the incompetence and corruption of the ANC government who seems unwilling to address these serious concerns. In fact, just last week the Gauteng Health Department failed to pay April salaries to 91 doctors and nurses at the Helen Joseph Hospital. And the interns at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital were also the victims of late payment.

How does the ANC government envision to manage the National Health Insurance (NHI) project when they are unable to make the current universal health care system in South Africa work? Before the ANC government can even begin to think about the NHI, they must increase the numbers of qualified medical personnel working in South Africa’s current public health care sector.

R8.8 billion has already been allocated towards the NHI. Why is this money not used to alleviate the critical shortage of medical personnel? The DA calls for these funds to be redirected towards the training and employment of doctors and nurses, and the development of nursing colleges.

The DA will submit follow-up parliamentary questions regarding:

  • The number of general practitioners and specialist medical personnel there are nationally and in each province, and the ratio per population.
  • The average waiting time at hospitals and clinics nationally and per province.

South Africa’s current health care problem cannot be alleviated by pipe dreams. These serious concerns must be addressed head on with practical and pragmatic solutions.