Fears of nurse shortage as international recruiters target Cape Town health workers

Life Healthcare Group student nurses in training . Picture supplied

Life Healthcare Group student nurses in training . Picture supplied

Published May 23, 2023


Cape Town - Despite a shortage of critical care nurses, international recruiters are busy targeting nurses across SA, including recently in the Western Cape.

On International Nurses Day 11 days ago, an international recruitment agency, Visa Solutions Healthcare, held an event in Cape Town inviting “all bedside registered nurses with one to two years’ experience in a hospital facility” to apply for positions at US hospitals.

The social media advert designed to drum up support for the event read in part: “Join us to learn about our #CareForYourDream program and take the first step towards achieving your #AmericanDream.

“Our team will tell you how we can help you secure an EB-3 visa for yourself and your family and start a permanent nursing career in the United States.

“Tell your RN (registered nurse) friends and bring your resume along! We’ll be pre-screening candidates and conducting interviews for positions in premier US hospitals.”

The company’s representative in South Africa did not respond to queries about the event.

How the Nursing recruitment poster appeared on Facebook

The recruitment drive comes at a time when there are fears that the recruitment of South African nurses and doctors is contributing to the country’s “brain drain”.

According to the Human Resources for Health Strategy for 2030, the shortage of registered nurses in primary health care is expected to reach 34 000 by 2025.

Allmed Healthcare Professionals director Sandra Sampson said: “This alarming prediction is due to several factors, including inadequate training and student outputs, and positions not being filled.”

Sampson also blamed an ageing workforce, lucrative overseas opportunities, and poor working conditions that have only worsened due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

She said the shortage of nurses had led to an unfavourable nurse-topatient ratio, which currently stands at one nurse for every 218 patients, compared to the ideal ratio of 1:6.

Life Healthcare Group CEO Peter Wharton-Hood said he was concerned that Life Healthcare had the capacity to train up to 3 000 nurses yearly, which would help address the shortfall, but is currently only accredited to train 800.

Health and Wellness MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said: “Nationally there is a shortage of critical care nursing.

“Currently, there are 13 450 nursing posts filled in the department with a vacancy rate of 6.5%. This means there are 942 funded posts which are vacant.”

Health and Wellness MEC Nomafrench Mbombo. Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Mbombo said it was not compulsory for staff to provide a reason for resignation, so she could not accurately comment.

However, she said that over the past three years, in instances where reasons were provided, only three department staff indicated emigration as a reason and none of them were nurses.

Mbombo said the department had made “a huge investment towards training of nurses in the province”.

She said several interventions to increase the supply of nurses had been implemented. These included establishing an integrated nurse-training framework, a co-ordinated clinical nurse-training platform and obtaining South African Nursing Council accreditation of additional nursing programmes and clinical placement sites.

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Cape Argus