R2bn pledged to fill vacant health department posts
The department of health will spend R2bn to fill more than 15,000 posts for health workers across SA’s public health facilities, a move that will provide much-needed employment and help alleviate staff shortages that have plagued the sector.
The new jobs include 9,797 newly qualified health professionals — such as community-service dentists, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals — who will be embarking on internships or community-service posts.
SA’s public health-care system has been beset by staff and infrastructure shortages, issues that have taken centre stage as discussions about the National Health Insurance — set to be implemented by 2026 — gain momentum. The country has a shortage of 47,000 nurses.
In September, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that as part of an economic stimulus and recovery plan, the government would reprioritise R50bn of its budget to create jobs and revive the economy.
The new jobs were announced by health minister Aaron Motsoaledi on behalf of the National Health Council last week.
Of the more than 15,000 posts — which will be filled from January — 5,300 will be clinical and support health workers across the nine provinces. This will include doctors who are specialists, including in rare medical conditions.
"Understaffing, especially in the provinces, has been cited as one of the major contributing factors which has affected the provision of health care," Motsoaledi said.
The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), although welcoming the decision to fill the positions, said 5,300 posts were not enough to ensure that the sector performed at its best.
The union added that the pace of filling the positions was too slow since Ramaphosa had announced the stimulus package more than two months ago.
“The appointment of the health workers, which includes a broad spectrum of health professionals [such as] registrars, pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, radiographers, specialists, psychologists, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals, will go a long way towards improving the quality of health care in public health facilities in all the provinces,” said Motsoaledi in a statement on behalf of the National Health Council.
The council, which is a statutory body, is made up of a number of health-sector experts including Motsoaledi, the deputy minister of health Joe Phaahla, the provincial MECs for health, the surgeon general of the SA Military Health Services and representatives from the SA Local Government Association.
Motsoaledi’s announcement followed a council meeting which resolved to fill the positions urgently.
Staff shortages in the North West province were the most acute, so the department planned to employ 2,222 workers in the province who will take up positions as cleaners, administrative clerks and general assistants.
The North West department of health was placed under administration earlier this year due to governance and other issues, including a protracted strike.