Health Department to review employment of newly qualified doctors battling unemployment

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Timothy Bernard Independent Newspapers

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla. Picture: Timothy Bernard Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 5, 2024


Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has announced that a review of their approach to employing medical doctors and specialists would be conducted, in the wake of mounting concerns over the rising numbers of unemployed doctors in the country.

Speaking at a briefing in Hatfield, Pretoria, earlier on Monday, the health minister said his department would review the current dispensation of the employment of doctors to establish whether there were areas where existing funds could be reassigned to enable the employment of more health professionals.

Phaahla added that they would in addition appeal to the Minister of Finance to assist with better budget allocations, highlighting how an increase in the number of health-care professionals would also reduce the workload of those already employed within the sector.

The update on the situation by the minister came after unions representing health-care professionals such as the South African Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) reported that as many as more than 800 qualified doctors remained unemployed following the completion of their medical internship and community service.

In addressing the concerns raised by the union, Phaahla explained that according to their Personal and Salary System (PERSAL) it was found that of the 825 doctors listed to be unemployed, 694 had only completed their community service on December 31, 2023.

Most of whom, he said, had already applied for medical officer posts in various provinces.

With some of the remaining doctors, the health minister said they still needed to complete their community service obligations.

Even with the backlash of unemployed doctors and shortages of health-care workers in public health facilities, Phaahla insisted that the employment of health professionals was on a steady increase.

The minister detailed that despite funding constraints over the past five years from 2018 to 2024, as many as 14 667 medical interns had been appointed, with 9 010 community service workers between 2020 and 2024.

“It is the wish of the government and especially the Department of Health to employ as many health professionals as possible to play a meaningful role in the public health system of the country.

“The issue of doctors who wish to stay in the public service employment is of major concern to us as the department, hence we are doing everything possible, working with the provincial Health Departments to mobilise resources to fund vacant posts, especially for health facilities in underserved communities,” Phaahla said.