Medical Practitioners and Nurses

by HALL, E.J. & ERASMUS, J., 2003
HRD Review 2003: Education, Employment and Skills in South Africa. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council Press. Chpt 23, pp 523-553.

Hall and Erasmus explore whether South Africa has enough medical practitioners and nurses to provide proper healthcare services to its citizens, and focuses on the demand for and supply of medical practitioners and nurses for the period 2001–2011. In 2003, there were 29 655 medical practitioners in South Africa, at a rate of 65 physicians per 100 000 people. Approximately 60% were employed in the private health sector, at a ratio of 255:100 000. The remainder worked in the public health sector, where they provided medical care to 84% of the population, at a ratio of 29:100 000. The number of nurses was estimated at 155 484, at a ratio of 343:100 000, which compares favourably with the World Health Organisation’s minimum norm of 200:100 000. The ratio was expected to drop to 305:100 000 in the following decade, with 18 758 positions remaining unfilled. Shortages of medical practitioners and nurses are created by the mal distribution of skills across sectors and provinces, and are aggravated by the outflow of skills from South Africa. Supply is restricted by inadequate resources, the limited number of black candidates for higher education, high failure rates, and poor working conditions and remuneration in the public health sector.