The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) has, since 2016, been calling on government – the Department of Health through the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) – to allow foreign-qualified South African doctors and nurses to practise their profession in the country of their birth.
These medical professionals, despite their much-needed, critical skills, continue to face an uphill battle with the HPCSA. In many instances, the Council ignores these medical professionals’ desperate pleas for assistance with their integration into the South African medical system. Some doctors were only granted relief in 2021, after taking the HPCSA to Court. The class action lawsuit, brought by the South African Internationally Trained Health Professionals Association (SAITHPA), allowed foreign-qualified doctors to take the requisite examinations to permit them practise medicine in South Africa.
As the IFP, we are shocked to note that specialist foreign medical practitioners have recently been included on the Minister of Home Affairs’ Critical Skills List, which lists over 30 roles for specialist medical professionals. This, when we have hundreds of South African foreign-qualified medical professionals awaiting integration into our public healthcare system. Whilst recognising the difference between a medical specialist and a newly qualified medical doctor, the situation still points to a serious incapacity in South Africa, in respect of adequate medical training facilities for our own medical professionals.
For years, foreign-qualified medical professionals have been lost in the system, treated as outcasts, and forced to jump through administrative hoops, without any guarantees that they will be able to practise their profession. This country has failed them and, in so doing, failed itself!
Government must not only fast-track our existing South African foreign-qualified medical professionals into the public healthcare system, but also causally redress the local medical educational incapacity. This country must prioritise the establishment of additional medical training institutions. Local nurses must also not be neglected: government must create conducive working conditions and provide opportunities for upskilling for South African nurses.
If this government is serious about establishing its National Health Insurance (NHI), it should first ensure that existing public healthcare is properly managed and resourced. Then, perhaps, we would not have such an exodus of healthcare professionals from South Africa, necessitating such critical skills shortage interventions.
We have foreign-qualified medical professionals already in the country; we must fast-track these individuals into the healthcare system. We have a shortage of medical specialists, what long-term solutions are in place? Unfortunately, at this juncture, government is leaving us with more questions than answers! They appear to be applying ‘band-aids’ when surgical solutions are required. In the hope of finding these solutions, I will be taking these matters up personally with the Minister of Health.
Hon. Narend Singh MP
IFP Chief Whip in Parliament
083 788 5954