80% of SA’s Population Serviced by 18% of SA’s Doctors

Amidst dire warnings from the Clinical Heads of Units (CHUs) of specialist departments at Dora Nginza, Livingstone and Provincial hospitals yesterday (See: East Cape Doctors draw the line in the sand with Health Department) some sobering facts around the pitiful state of our Department of Health emerged some of which would, in a normal business, send dire warnings to sharholders to bail with extreme prejudice:

  • Asof 1 July the casualty department at Dora Nginza will stop running if no staff are appointed immediately.
  • There is already a one year waiting list for paediatric patients requiring surgery.
  • South Africa has only 37000 doctors, 12000 of which are specialists.
  • 80% of those 37000 service 18% of South Africa’s population of 50 586 757 (July 2011, Stats SA) via private medical aid schemes.
  • 7 400 doctors work in state hospitals servicing 41 481 140 citizens – a ratio of 1 doctor per 5 605 persons.
  • In the private sector the ratio is one doctor per 310 persons.
  • The East Cape CHU’s estimate that they are operating at 70% of the required staff complement.
  • East Cape Health Admin staff numbers are estimated to have increased by 130%.
  • Over the same period the number of new doctors appointed is estimated at 8%.
  • Over the same period the number of new nursing staff appointed is estimated at 1%.
  • On certain days of the month there will be NO staff on duty who are able to do emergency surgery.
  • Many so called departments consist of only ONE specialist and no other staff
  • The Health Department spends money on new facilities which then go to rot as no staff are appointed to run them.
  • Doctors expressing a willingness to work in the State Health Care system wait upwards of six months before being told that there is no money to employ them.
  • Health Care professionals offered to give up their Overtime allowances in order to free up money and were refused.
  • Amidst dire warnings that R900 Billion needs to be spent on Health, the department is still throttling back on spending.

Some of the words of despair from the health professionals:

  • “Never ever have we been found with the situation where we can only do non-elective services.”
  • “This situation has been brought about by administrators and not doctors.”
  • “We simply do not have the staff.”
  • “In an elective situation the surgeon is held responsible, not the administrator. It is simply unsafe to work in these conditions.”
  • “It is time for the public to reclaim the health department.”
  • “During apartheid we were the 2nd best province for health care.”
  • “Everything stops at Treasury amnd we are told that there is no money.”
  • “It is physically impossible to attend to all the patients without staff.”
  • “Local management says that their hands are tied.”
  • “Money has been taken from research fund allocations to provide normal service.”
  • “It’s a very dismal situation.”
  • “The Health Department shows a distinct lack of consultation and transparency.”
  • “If the ‘money tap’ is opened now it could take upwards of five years to normalise the situation.”

Asked what they had done to solve the situation the CHUs said that they had formally approached their direct superiors in the local department and received no feedback. This they had escalated to the Premier Noxolo Kiviet who had said the matter was being attended to. Then they escalated the matter to National treasury who had responded that the matter was “receiving attention.”

The Clinical Heads of Units (CHUs) of specialist departments at Dora Nginza, Livingstone and Provincial hospitals have now given notice that asof 1 July 2012 they will only perform emergency surgery as a first priority until such time as the current staffing crisis is addressed.