Working for access to quality public healthcare in South Africa since 1998

Healthcare worker shortages

The shortage of human resources is a major issue in South Africa — especially in the public sector. Ensuring access to quality healthcare services and meeting ensuring everyone living with HIV and TB get access to treatment and care depends largely on having enough qualified and committed staff – including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, community healthcare workers (CHWs), lay counsellors, peer-educators, even security guards, porters and cleaners. 

However, instead of filling vacant posts and ensuring that there are enough people to properly deliver our healthcare, the government is freezing posts in many areas. While many doctors and nurses remain unemployed, there are not enough open positions to employ them. The problem is only exacerbated for rural communities who struggle to attract specialists and senior doctors. These shortages lead to long waiting times, longer hospital stays, higher numbers of deaths, and increased pressure on the few staff in place. One of the major causes of medicine stockouts and shortages are a result of staff being too busy to place orders in time. Community healthcare workers are a critical cadre in the health system who could reduce the burden on clinics. Yet a draft national policy relating to their employment has languished for many years.