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January 2017

The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa), reacting to the recent statement by the health minister regarding staffing issues, urges him to address the shortage of staff in the public sector.  The Union argues that the Minister’s statement fails to sufficiently address the shortage of staff in public hospitals and clinics, and that more can be done to provide incentives to qualified but unemployed health professionals to work in rural areas.

In his statement delivered in Pretoria on Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi proudly announced every doctor and pharmacist who applied for internships and community service in the public sector, were offered placements.  He disputed claims that newly-qualified medical professionals in these fields were unable to secure placement for internships or community service.  Citing statistics from the recently-implemented centralised application system known as the Internship Community Service Placement Programme (ICSP), he argued that, even though offers were made to all applicants, not all offers for placement were taken up.  He said that the reasons for doctors, nurses and pharmacists declining offers were mostly personal, but agreed that many officials avoided working in rural areas.

Doctors and other health professionals are reportedly outraged by the Minister’s claims that they seem to choose to be unemployed.  At the media briefing after the statement on Thursday, the Minister reported that there are currently a total of 147 posts available for unemployed doctors – a claim that doctors have disputed.  Unemployed doctors said that their attempts to secure employment at certain public hospitals were unsuccessful, and that one of the reasons cited was lack of financial resources.

“Hospersa is very concerned about this paradox.  On the one hand we have a confirmed shortage of staff, but on the other we hear of qualified healthcare professionals who remain unemployed,” said Hospersa General Secretary, Noel Desfontaines.  “Hospersa is appalled over the often dismal working conditions faced by its members in the public sector – especially in hospitals and clinics managed on skeleton staff.  Nurses are at the frontline of healthcare in South Africa, and one often finds that nurses are expected to operate clinics on their own and with very little resources,” he said.

“Hospersa made key resolutions to face these challenges at its 2013 National Congress,” said Desfontaines.  “We therefore have a clear mandate from our members to address the various issues related to poor management and corruption, staff shortages and OHS [Occupational Health & Safety] – particularly in the public service.  There is still a vast gap between public healthcare facilities in the urban areas and that one finds in rural and far-flung communities, both in terms of quality and basic capacity.  This needs to be addressed, while also implementing more effective incentives for health workers to apply their talents in rural areas,” Desfontaines concluded.


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For interviews please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines – 083-321-4427.

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