SA urgently needs more nurses, says Life Healthcare

Nurses gather at Unisa to celebrate International Nurses Day. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Nurses gather at Unisa to celebrate International Nurses Day. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published May 13, 2023


Johannesburg - As the world celebrated International Nurses Day on Friday, leading global health-care provider Life Healthcare called for more nurses to be trained, in order to address a looming crisis of the critical shortage of these medical professionals in the country.

Life Healthcare chief executive Peter Wharton-Hood revealed that the current nursing shortage was estimated at more than 26 000 professionals, but this number was expected to reach more than 100 000 by 2030.

He further pointed out that currently South Africa had only one nurse for every 213 people, with less than a third of these being under the age of 40. What is more, at least 47% of current nurses were expected to retire within 15 years.

“Today’s investment in these critical skills does not stack up against the growth of our population. If no immediate action is taken, and we cannot develop a sustainable pipeline of nursing talent, the problem is going to get worse.

“Nurses are the backbone of any health-care system, and we are being denied the opportunity to invest in the next generation of nurses,” said Wharton-Hood.

He also expressed concern about the fact that, while Life Healthcare had the capacity to train up to 3 000 nurses a year, which would help address the staffing shortfall, they were currently accredited to train only 800, and could not change this without the support of the regulators.

A 2020 report into the state of the world’s nursing by the World Health Organization had also highlighted the importance of governments and stakeholders investing in nursing education to meet domestic demand, as well as responding to changing technologies and models of integrated health and social care.

Wharton-Hood said increasing numbers of males were now entering nursing, and he encouraged men to take an interest in the profession, saying the days of nursing being considered a career for women were long gone.

Registered nurse Mbulelo Nqandela, who works at Life Wilgeheuwel Hospital’s emergency unit, said: “Caring, dedication, transparency and humanity (are crucially important to be a nurse). I know I’m repeating myself, but you must be a human being before everything else. You need to care, and you need to be empathetic as well, as though it is you or even your family member who is in that bed.”

The theme of this year’s global International Council of Nurses is “Our Nurses, Our Future”, which emphasises the crucial importance of nurturing nurses and investing in nursing and the nursing profession.

“South Africa is currently experiencing a severe shortage of skilled nurses, which is impacting the quality and accessibility of health-care services across the nation. Recognising this challenge, Life Healthcare reaffirms its commitment to investing in the training and development of nurses, and ensuring a sustainable pipeline of nursing professionals for the future,” said Wharton-Hood.