Health Minister Joe Phaahla says there are more than 10 000 vacancies in South Africa‘s public hospitals for nurses and 1330 unfilled posts for doctors.
In a written reply to parliamentary questions posed by Freedom Front Plus MP Philip van Staden, Phaahla said there are 10 831 vacant nursing posts in state hospitals.
KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of nurse vacancies (3603), followed by the Eastern Cape (2183) and Gauteng (1497).
Limpopo had 806 vacancies, Free State 799, North West 622, Mpumalanga 569, Western Cape 526 and Northern Cape 226.
Phaahla also said there were 1339 vacant doctor posts in state hospitals.
Limpopo is leading in vacancies for doctors with 414, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 257, Gauteng 174, Mpumalanga 123, Free State 110, Eastern Cape 108, Western Cape 66, North West 44 and Northern Cape 43.
The minister said due to general budget cuts, introduced by the National Treasury as part of fiscal consolidation in the Public Service, the cost of employment was negatively affected. He said not all posts could be filled simultaneously.
“This has resulted in stringent measures implemented to control filling of positions, including key line function posts to avoid over expenditure on compensation of employment.”
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The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has already placed a moratorium on the filling of critical positions that were advertised in a recent circular.
“The circular was issued by the department as a cost containment plan for the management of budget allocated. The primary aim is to ensure that there is no over expenditure on cost of employment, among other things, as a turnaround strategy to reduce the over expenditure in the budget allocated,” he said.
Phaahla said the national department has introduced several interventions to address the shortage of health workers in health facilities.
These included prioritisation of the posts in the annual recruitment plan where funding permitted, prioritisation of the posts for conditional grant funding and filling of replacement posts considered and approved weekly.
He said there was also awarding of bursaries yearly to internal and external candidates to study further in various disciplines, a dedicated registrar programme to train and produce in-house medical specialists, and provision of internship and community service programmes.
Responding to separate questions from DA MP Michele Clarke, Phaahla said 2419 doctors were confirmed as having met the requirements of completing their degrees in December 2021. This made them eligible for medical internship from January this year.
“The total number of nurses who were confirmed as having met the requirements of completing their degrees in December 2021, that made them eligible for community service for January 2022, are 3196,” he said.
Phaahla said 2155 community service doctors have completed their medical internship and were eligible to be placed as community service doctors in the 2022 cycle.
“A total of 43 medical community service doctors, 10 medical interns and 12 community services nurses were placed, respectively into positions. However, they have since rejected their placements due to various reasons and therefore remain unemployed,” he said.
Asked what the budget was for placing doctors and nurses in the healthcare system, Phaahla said the budget for placing interns and community service doctors and nurses was R4.8 billion a year.
“The increased numbers demanding additional positions for placements are due to returning medical students who studied in Cuba through the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro programme and additional intakes by local universities,” he said.
Phaahla also said his department had to approach the National Treasury to introduce new funding to cover the shortfalls, as provincial departments were unable to cover the shortfall demands within their equitable share budgets.