Almost seven million people in South Africa benefitted from the commitment and hard work of foreign doctors placed by Africa Health Placements (AHP) in the country last year.
Since 2005 AHP, a non-profit organisation, has recruited 2 500 local and foreign healthcare professionals to work in public healthcare facilities in rural areas.
AHP recruited 342 foreign-qualified doctors to work in South Africa in 2011. The most doctors (134) were placed in KwaZulu-Natal. 66 foreign doctors were placed at public healthcare facilities in Gauteng and 46 doctors worked in the Western Cape.
In KwaZulu-Natal, foreign doctors had an indirect impact on an estimated 2.1 million of the province's 10.8 million people.
In Gauteng, almost 1.4 million people benefited from the dedication of AHP's foreign doctors. The 29 foreign doctors working in Limpopo had an estimated positive impact on more than 977 000 of the 5.6 million people living in the province.
In the Eastern Cape, an estimated 832 864 people benefited from AHP's recruitment efforts. 28 foreign doctors from abroad were placed in the province.
The 46 foreign-qualified doctors working in public healthcare facilities in the Western Cape had an estimated indirect impact on more than 725 000 people. In the North West, an estimated 487 216 people benefited from the 17 doctors working in the province and in Mpumalanga 10 foreign-qualified doctors had a positive impact on an estimated 225 896 people.
These figures illustrate the invaluable contribution that foreign doctors make to improving access to healthcare in South Africa.
As Tracey Hudson, one of AHP's founders, says: "There is always a need for foreign doctors."
According to the Health Department's human resources strategy document, launched in October last year, there are currently over 3 000 foreign doctors working in South Africa, which constitutes approximately 10% of the medical workforce. However, there is still room to employ more. In the UK, a country with more resources than South Africa, more than a third of registered doctors qualified abroad.
In March, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced the 10 districts where National Health Insurance (NHI) will be piloted. He admitted that his biggest problem would be the shortage of doctors.
Foreign doctors can make an enormous contribution to the success of NHI. They also offer a vital lifeline to millions of South Africans who desperately need healthcare.
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