Sunday, May 24, 2009

South Africa's hospitals in crisis

SA's state hospitals are in crisis, and will be at risk of collapse if hundreds of unpaid and demoralised doctors flee their shocking working conditions and pay, claims a report.

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Johannesburg - South Africa's state hospitals are in crisis, and will be at risk of collapse if hundreds of unpaid and demoralised doctors flee their shocking working conditions and pay, the Sunday Times reported.

While doctors and health experts blame the shambles on health mismanagement, health minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said, "I would not use the word crisis, I would say very serious challenges."

The state of the country's public health system was revealed this week by doctors who are at loggerheads with the government over their paltry pay. Doctors were preparing to take to the streets on Friday and to also down tools in next month's Confederation Cup soccer showpiece.

Doctors were working up to 36 hour shifts without pay, operating theatres and trauma units were summarily shut down because of a lack of basic supplies and patients were routinely turned away because of a lack of ventilators, beds and medicine.

Poor management

The situation would deteriorate further if 10 percent to 15 percent of junior and mid-level doctors carry out their threat to quit unless their pay improves.

South Africa currently had just over 18 000 doctors in the public sector, which worked at one doctor to every 3 800 citizens without medical aid.

The World Health Organisation recommended an average ratio of eight doctors to every 10 000 people - about three times more doctors than South Africa currently has.

Dr Tina Ingratta, a senior doctor at Johannesburg's major hospitals, lists poor management and misallocation of resources among the primary reasons why the health care system is in disarray.

"Besides this, lack of incentives for people working in the health sector is a contributing factor. Government doesn't seem to prioritise our health care system," she said.

Dr Clarence Mini, who headed a committee to test the standards of Gauteng's 33 public hospitals, said only 11 met basic standards when they were first measured in 2005.

Since then, even some of the successful hospitals had dropped their standards, chiefly "owing to staff shortages and management issues".

Hat tip: Black Coffee

5 Opinion(s):

mawm said...

We all know why there is a shortage of doctors in SA hospitals.....we are employed by Oz, NZ, Canada and the UK where we are paid a fairly decent wage, have good working conditions and live in a safe environment.

Anonymous said...

"We came across really disturbing data that, as an example, showed that some doctors can't even afford to replace old computer equipment because they have difficulties with cash flow," said Luis da Silva, managing director of Healthbridge.

Healthbridge is an information technology company that ensures the fast payment of medical bills.

Da Silva said 10 percent of his clients, all of them doctors, had emigrated since October last year.

Healthbridge serves just over half of all medical practitioners in South Africa, Da Silva said in a statement.

"There is dissatisfaction about their earnings among many doctors and even private sector doctors... battle with high workloads and increasing bad debt."

He said about a third of registered South African doctors already practiced overseas.

"The loss of these doctors puts strains not only on health care but on universities."

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi acknowledged on Monday doctors and other health care professionals were underpaid.

"It is not up for debate, their remuneration does not satisfy us," he told the media at his first press conference since his appointment. - Sapa

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FanonPoqoChimurenga said...

Note how the health minister was quick to point out that it is not a crisis. Mbeki said the same things about crime as I recall. The potential problem with that approach is politicians may get all caught up in whether or not something is a "crisis" instead of working on solutions to the problems. On crime I agreed with Mbeki that it was not the crisis some made it out to be, but at same time it was and is a big problem. A few people I spoke with in Soweto felt Mbeki was out of touch on crime issue, and a white pastor who lives in Yeoville felt same way.
I do not know much about SA's public health facilities. If this article is accurate this is a disturbing situation. I presume that most poor South Africans can not afford the private doctors.

Exzanian said...

It is a sad tale, but we must remember it is only a reflection of the wealth gap in SA. Most middle class folks (read white) are on private health care plans and can afford state of the art medical treatment at private clinics when ill. The majority (read black) are doomed to filthy hospitals and poor health care on all levels. Combined with the lack of land ownership (87% of land still in white hands) all I can say is I shudder at the thought of the looming re-distribution and expropriation that will have to take place, sooner or later. So far the blacks have been very magnanimous and forgiving but their patience will run out.

Anonymous said...

To add to what Vince R is saying. The pending D-Day will have nothing to do with the lack of transformation, but rather the lack of delivery by the ANC. As regards the medical sector, it is true that private health care has taken care of white patients, but the continual drain of professionals and the high crime rate will eventually impact on this sector as well. Just a correction on the 87% land ownership issue. It is a commonly held myth that whites own 87% of the land, which gives rise to black resentment. Whites only own 87% of the arable land, which only constitutes about 14% of the land. Overall, whites own about 44% of the land.