Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi File picture: Jacques Naude

Johannesburg - The Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says the country’s healthcare system is not on the verge of collapsing, but he admits that there is a problem of staff shortage at a number of public hospitals. 

Motsoaledi said he was worried that a number of provinces were lacking critical skills such as oncologists.

The minister admitted that the department had tried to source critically skilled individuals from other countries to fill in vacant posts, but the department could not afford to employ them.

Some of the provinces facing massive staff shortages include Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the North West.

He said the North West health department was largely to blame for its own staff shortages as it had stopped filling those posts.

The province has been gripped by a healthcare strike for months led by members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu). The union is calling for the department to increase staff capacity at public hospitals. 

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) had to send in its health care officials to help out at North West hospitals that were incapacitated due to the strike.

Motsoaledi said he was sending members from the national department to assess why patients were not being served. 

He admitted that the healthcare system was distressed and said that was largely due to the over reliance on the system.

“We are worried by extreme overcrowding in our health facilities. The biggest problem is human resources,” said Motsoaledi.

“There is no shortage of medication. Just a shortage of staff.”

He said the system was also being clogged by the large number of foreigners also seeking healthcare.  

Motsoaledi’s briefing on Tuesday was largely in response to comments made over the weekend by Health Ombudsman Malegapuru Makgoba.

Makgoba said the healthcare system was on the verge of collapse.

Motsoaledi said he was not challenging Mokgoba’s comments but said the comments had been clarified and that he meant that the system was facing a “collapse” if the current system continues.

Although there were challenges, Mostoaledi said the country had made strides in dealing with HIV and TB cases.

He said the healthcare system was still able to provide these services but was over-capacitated.

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