Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Shortly after the National Council of Provinces’ historic vote on the National Health Insurance Bill, which paves the way for Universal Health Care in South Africa, concerns have been raised about the Health Department’s failure to place 182 healthcare interns at government facilities in 2024. This situation poses a threat to service delivery, particularly in rural areas.

Although all medical interns have secured placements for 2024, a report by Bhekisisa reveals that by December 12, 182 new radiographers, physiotherapists, dietitians, dentists, and environmental health practitioners still awaited positions, jeopardizing their qualifications. South Africa has mandated newly graduated health workers to serve in public health facilities to gain full qualification since 1998, ensuring access to specialist and rehabilitation care, especially in rural areas.

The failure to secure placements means these professionals won’t be considered fully qualified, impacting their ability to practice in their respective fields. This development comes amid budget cuts announced by the National Treasury, raising concerns among South African Committees of Dental Deans, Healthcare Sciences Deans, and Medical Deans. The Deans warn of potential severe impacts on the health system, particularly in the pursuit of Universal Health Coverage.

Budget cuts, outlined by the National Treasury, have raised serious concerns about the future of healthcare, particularly in rural areas. The Deans stress that these cuts could worsen the already overburdened health system, leading to staff burnout and morale issues. They express particular concern about the future of academic health platforms, highlighting chronic underfunding of health infrastructure and professional education.

Despite efforts by the Minister of Health and the National Department of Health, the health system remains in crisis, according to the Deans. They urge the government to address these systemic failures urgently, emphasizing the crucial role of a well-functioning health system in training and graduating quality health professionals at all levels.

Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the National Health Department, assures that efforts are underway to address shortfalls in various areas of need, including posts for dentists, dietitians, physiotherapists, and environmental health practitioners. The department is committed to allocating posts to unplaced graduates meeting the minimum requirements and keeping them informed of developments.

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