Chronic shortage of doctors is hitting province hard

THE dire shortage of doctors in Limpopo - and elsewhere in South Africa - has become a national crisis.

Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale has admitted that the province is plagued by a serious challenge of the availability of medicines and qualified healthcare professionals.

Statistics provided by the provincial department of health reveal there are currently 897 doctors and that 115 more are needed to address the health needs of the 5,5million population.

Polokwane Provincial Hospital needs 432 doctors but is currently relying on 277. Its counterpart, Mankweng Hospital, needs 82 doctors but has only 37. At Helena Franz, dubbed the "hospital of death", 38 doctors are needed. It has only four doctors to serve nearly 400000 people.

The hospital recorded the highest number of deaths - at 192 - in November and December last year.

Nine posts for doctors were advertised by the hospital in Sekhukhune in August this year but none were filled.

DA MP Jacques Smalle said yesterday the statistics showed the province was still faced with a massive challenge in improving health. "This doctor shortage clearly puts a strain on the current doctors and compromises the quality of care given to patients.

"It is the responsibility of our provincial government to ensure that there is a dependable healthcare in the province," Smalle said.

Department of health spokesperson Selby Makgotho, confirms the chronic shortage. He says it is a national crisis and the department is recruiting beyond the country's borders in an effort to address the shortage.

"We are also making available bursaries for students who want to do medicine outside the country and then plough (their expertise) back into the province after graduating."