Lack of docs a grave worry
A SHORTAGE of medical personnel in the country could hamper the newly launched integrated school health programme.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is concerned about the roll-out of the programme (ISHP) at schools in which 12 million pupils would receive various health screenings, including contraceptives.
"My biggest worry is that the country has some of the best policies available, but implementation and sustainability is always a problem.
"This is a primary health programme with emphasis on prevention [of disease] and promotion of health and is supposed to be a lifetime programme."
Motsoaledi said the 500 retired nurses hired and trained to run the ISHP would not be enough as the shortage of doctors and nurses continues to cripple public health care.
"If we train 10 times the number of doctors we have in this country, there will still be a shortage.
"Contributing factors are that we have a shortage of students studying maths and science and that we only have eight medical schools, with the last one built more than 27 years ago.
"We should not have allowed that to happen."
He said his department was building a medical school in Limpopo and increasing the student intake at existing schools from 1,200 to 3,600 a year .
SA students studying medicine in Cuba have also increased from fewer than 100 to 1,000 this year.
SA Medical Association spokeswoman Phophi Ramathuba said the shortage of doctors posed problems for both the ISHP and National Health Insurance.
"We have 14,000 qualified doctors for a population of 33 million depending on public health.
"Some hospitals are operating on two to three doctors instead of 20, that is how bad the situation is here.
"The ISHP will reduce the burden at public hospitals as it is focused on primary health care," she said.