The Pietermaritzburg High Court just two weeks ago, directed the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to authorise within 10 days our application for the training accreditation of 230 nurses. In an article published in Medical Brief, summarising an earlier report in TimesLive (paywalled), we noted that we had no comment on the judgment, but that we wanted to continue to flag the “far more important matter of the general shortage of medical skills, in particular specialist medical skills, in the country. These obviously affect health delivery and outcomes. We are convinced we can only meet the huge challenge of getting adequate numbers of doctors and nurses to patient’s bedsides if all stakeholders collaborate, which is why HASA rededicates itself to work with the national department and provincial departments of health and other stakeholders to collectively find short-term and long-term solutions.”
One of the reasons we feel so strongly about this is captured in another article published by Medical Brief in October last year. You can read it here. The journalist writes: “The set retirement age for nurses in the public sector is 65, although some extensions are allowed. This means, in short, that in 15 years, 47% of registered nurses will have retired. The same applies to about 26 to 30% of the enrolled nurses and nursing auxiliaries. We have a crisis.'”
“We have a crisis of an ageing workforce,” says Prof Laetitia Rispel, the South African Research Chair on the Health Workforce at Wits University. She said while this was an international problem, South Africa’s relatively young population made it worrying. “It’s not just the replacement of the actual individuals, but you also have to look at the cumulative experience and wisdom in the health system and that’s not going to be replaced unless we sort of take action now,” she said.
Just today, the media noted the extent of the problem in the public sector in this article (Nurse shortage). It is important to make a differentiation though between the overall shortage of nurses in the system, and the shortage caused by insufficient funded posts. Either way, the shortage exists and is derailing access to quality healthcare, and strides taken to invest in nurse education will ultimately pay off. To achieve these ends, HASA is fully engaged and committed to working cooperatively and collaboratively with all provincial departments, as noted, and the National Department of Health.