150 doctors leave profession or SA each year
About 150 doctors each year - 11% of graduates - do not do community service, either leaving the profession or emigrating. If doctors in South Africa do not complete community service, they may not work in the country but can work abroad if they meetindividual country requirements.Since community service started in 1999, on average each year about 11% of graduates do not complete the service.University of Cape Town primary healthcare professor Steve Reid, who has studied doctor community-service trends, said the loss was significant because of the country's shortage of doctors.Reid said more research was needed to find out why these graduates did not do community service, preventing them from practising in the country.CEO of the Foundation for Professional Development, Gustav Wolvaardt, said compared to peer countries - such as Brazil - South Africa could be short of about 60,000 doctors. At the current rate of training it will take 100 years to get enough doctors.But Wolvaardt said information on how many doctors were working in the country - without being registered - was not available.But, Reid said, community service was becoming more positive, with 55% of doctors saying they had a better year than expected. This was up from 25% about 10 years ago.Community service has also increased the number of skilled doctors in rural areas.Half of all doctors who completed community service did so in a rural area, up from a quarter in 2001. This showed the programme was working to improve healthcare delivery in under-served areas, said Reid.More than 80% of doctors feel the year contributes to their career development; 91% felt they had made a difference.But 69% of doctors feel unsafe at work, mostly in urban areas.