Johannesburg – South Africa has just over 22 000 nurses in the public sector to care for more than 50 million people living in the country.
The highest number of nurses are in KwaZulu-Natal with more than 7 000 while Gauteng has almost 5 000.
The Northern Cape has the lowest number of nurses in all age categories in the country’s public health sector.
This was revealed by the Minister of Health Joe Phaahla in his written reply to questions by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Health Michele Clarke in parliament.
According to the reply, South Africa has only 22 090 nurses to serve the country’s more than 50 million people dependent on the public health sector – one for every 2 300 people – and of these more than 30% will retire in the next 10 years. A further 38% will retire in the decade after.
Reacting to reply, Clarke said there were 5 060 vacancies for various nursing specialities.
Asked about the possibility of employing more nurses, Phaahla said: “The Department is unable to state the envisaged time frame to fill the vacant positions due to general budget cuts that negatively affects the Compensation of Employment (CoE) a specific date of when the specified challenges will be eradicated.
“However, it can confirm that measures are applied across Provinces to prioritise filling of vacant posts where the budgets permit.”
Clarke said the Department of Health seemed to have no concrete plans to address this disastrous state of affairs with the Minister stating that he “is unable to state the envisaged time frame to fill the vacant positions due to general budget cuts that negatively affects the Compensation of Employment” and that the filling of vacant posts were prioritised “where the budgets permit”.
“Situations like these are exactly why the National Health Insurance (NHI) is destined to fail. The ANC government is incapable of managing the public health sector,” she said.
Clarke said the government’s failure to address the current nursing shortage and lack of urgency to solve the sector’s future demise was a disturbing prediction of what’s to come under the disastrous NHI.