Concerns over delays in endorsing qualified foreign doctors by the Departments of Health and Home Affairs were raised by Members of Parliament on Wednesday amidst a current shortage of doctors operating in the public health sector.
In a meeting of Parliament’s Health Portfolio Committee where Health Director-General Malebona Precious Matsoso was to present the department’s strategic plan and budget proposal, DA MP Denise Robinson said foreign doctors were available to relieve the current a shortage of doctors in South Africa’s public sector.
Yet the department, which needed to work in tandem with Home Affairs, took a long time to process work permits.
It has been reported that the needs of the National Health Insurance South Africa needs to double the number of doctors it trains each year and a presentation by doctors Mark Sonderup and Phophi Ramathuba for the SA Medical Associations 2011 conference noted that there are approximately 27 641 doctors practicing in South Africa with about 23 407 practicing in other countries.
Matsoso defended the length of time accreditation took, saying accreditation of foreign doctors was part of their strategic plan but the process needed to be properly carried out to avoid acquiring professionals with questionable credentials.
She said her department was also focussing on working with the Department of Higher Education and Training to beef up the number of medical graduates.
Seven of the country’s eight medical schools had agreed to bump up their student intakes, she said.
This would result in 160 extra students from the rural areas being taken up by these institutions for training at a cost of R200 000 per individual.
This would add to the current output of 1 200 doctors graduating per year.
The committee also raised the issue of a major cut in the department’s 2012/2013 budget allocation toward primary health care from R164 million to R87million.
Matsoso said the R87 million had been budgeted at a national level to cover issues such as policy, oversight and monitoring and more money was available at a provincial level.
For example, it said that R1, 1 billion would be available for provinces in the 2012/13 period and R1, 7 billion for the 2013/14 period. This money would be in addition to what provinces allocated towards primary health care. – Francis Hweshe