Professional nurses top the country's shortfall list with 44 780 vacancies, at a cost of R17-billion required to fill the deficit.
The figures come from the government's human resource system (Persal) and the national treasury's database and reveals the enormous staffing crisis in the country's public healthcare environment, the newspaper reported.
Limpopo has 39 653 vacant posts while the Eastern Cape has 27 267 vacant posts .The worst affected is the professional nursing sector, with the shortage making up half the vacancies in the Eastern Cape.
As shocking as these figures are, the shortage of healthcare workers has been widely recognised by stakeholders, including the department of health. The minister of health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said the country needs "many, many, many, many more" doctors at the launch of his department's human resources strategy document in October last year.[i]
The shortage is partly caused by medical schools not significantly increasing their graduate output. Between 2000 and 2008 the country's eight medical schools only produced, on average, about 1 300 doctors annually - The vast majority of these graduates will work abroad or choose the private sector leaving very few doctors to work in public facilities.
Although the staff shortages in South Africa's public health sector is dire, there is a solution. Recruiting foreign doctors provides a lifeline to public healthcare facilities. AHP has since our inception in 2005 recruited and placed more than 2 500 foreign-qualified doctors and local healthcare workers at public healthcare facilities in rural and underserved areas.
Recruiting foreign doctors should also not be seen as a short-term solution. Foreign doctors can support hospitals in becoming self-sustainable. AHP has developed a recruitment model to assist healthcare facilities in becoming self-sustaining. Firstly, effective management has to be in place. Foreign-qualified doctors can then be recruited. Once a contingent of foreign doctors is in place, local workers can be attracted more easily. With a team of experienced doctors on board, junior doctors and trainees will follow because they have the opportunity to be supervised and mentored. Management can focus on using the facility's improved capacity effectively and a facility can then become self-sustainable.
By sourcing, recruiting and placing foreign and local healthcare professionals in public healthcare facilities, AHP improves the quality and coverage of healthcare services while working with the department of health and other bodies to create a sustainable new reality for public health.