The health department is asking unemployed doctors to look elsewhere

The health department has advised unemployed doctors to look elsewhere for employment despite the country’s critical doctor shortage, which is little more than one doctor for every 1,000 patients.

shortage of doctors

In response to a parliamentary question, Health Secretary Joe Phaahla announced last May that the country’s doctor-to-patient ratio was 1:3 per 198 patients and 0.31 doctors per 1,000 patients, and the number of doctors is declining.

Spokeswoman Foster Mohale said the health department is well aware that there are doctors who are still trying to find employment after completing community service.

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He said under the National Health Act, the National Health Department — in cooperation with provincial health ministries — is responsible for placing interns and community service applicants.

“Unemployed doctors alone”

But Mohale said that once doctors complete their community service, they are free to seek employment in jobs of their choosing.

“It is therefore their responsibility to apply for positions in various hospitals under the jurisdiction of provincial health ministries or in the private health sector. SAMATU’s [the South African Medical Association Trade Union] Referring to physicians who are not yet employed is based on false information.

“The department has never made a commitment to finding employment for doctors who have completed their community service,” he said.

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In a previous meeting with the union, the delegation was advised by the department to provide a comprehensive list of such unemployed doctors, full personal details and each doctor’s registration details with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Mohale said the department will then share this list with provinces to help with employment where they have funded vacancies, but that the union has yet to act on this request and guidance.

“union disingenuous”

Mohale said they had no record of a notice of a planned march to the Dr. AB Xuma Building in Pretoria on Thursday.

He said they were made aware of a social media poster bearing the name of the SAMATU union, which is agitating for the march.

What is troubling, Mohale said, is the malicious subterfuge used in part as the reason for the march; that the department commits to finding employment for doctors.

“It is therefore disingenuous that the leaders of the craft unions and democratic unions are trying to exploit the feelings of those desperate for employment by giving them false information,” Mohale accused.

He said they remain committed to strengthening the healthcare system, including by ensuring healthcare facilities are adequately staffed.

Mohale said this is why the minister continues to work with the National Treasury to improve budget allocation to allow the public health sector to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.


He advised against any action aimed at disrupting health services and said the department’s door remains open for honest contacts with organizations wishing to raise concerns, including sharing viable potential solutions.

“While anyone and any organization has the right to protest publicly, such a protest must not be based on false information.

“Leaders have a responsibility to represent their members honestly, fairly and without distortion of facts. Engagements in finding solutions are always welcome to enable all South Africans to live long and healthy lives,” added Mohale.

The department explains that once doctors complete their community service, their responsibilities end, and they are then free to seek employment of their choice.

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