“The conditions in the public health sector are deplorable, and if the rest of the system is falling apart they are forced to leave,” Serfontein said. Photo: Itumeleng English/ African News Agency.
Cape Town - A new report released by the Board of Health Funders of South Africa has painted a bleak picture of health professionals leaving the public sector to move to the private sector.

The report measures the number and distribution of healthcare professional providers (HPPs) registered on the practice code numbering system (PCNS) during the period between January 2000 to December last year.

For a healthcare service provider to claim from a medical aid scheme, they need to be registered on the PCNS.

The report also noted an increasing number of healthcare professionals registering on the PCNS, from 36000 in 2000 to 54800 last year, which showed a 52% increase.

South African Medical Association vice-chairperson Dr Mark Sonderup said: “This is indeed of concern, but remember people in the public sector who may see private patients also need a PCNS number.

“Also, with declining posts available in the public sector, people need to work somewhere in the private sector, or leave.”

The report also stated that there was a disproportionate number of health professionals who practised in the private sector, compared with the public sector.

The Western Cape had the highest density of specialists, followed by Gauteng.

Health consultant Johann Serfontein said this was an indication of the poor working conditions within the country’s public sector.

“The conditions in the public health sector are deplorable, and if the rest of the system is falling apart they are forced to leave,” Serfontein said.

He added that the interesting part of the research was that some health professionals were cancelling their practice codes.

The research noted high deregistration from the PCNS system, suggesting a significant number of health professionals were leaving private practice.

It was unclear what was causing this, but some suggested reasons included emigration and leaving private practice to work elsewhere in the health industry.

“This is clearly an indication that some of the health professionals are leaving the country, because if they are cancelling their codes it’s not for retirement, it’s usually because they want to practise somewhere else.

“Its deeply concerning because South Africa needs doctors,” Serfontein said.

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Cape Argus