Health to tackle staff shortages

Friday, July 12, 2019

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says the department will deal with staff shortages for frontline services in the year ahead. 

The Minister led a debate on the department’s budget vote on Friday morning. 

“The shortage of frontline service delivery staff needs to be eliminated once and for all. We have identified the shortage of staff, which requires urgent attention. Of the 4 143 required medical officer positions, we will fill 2 680 in this financial year,” Mkhize said. 

This intervention, said the Minister, should be implemented simultaneously with the preliminary steps to introduce the National Health Insurance (NHI). 

Some of the nurse, allied health professions and community health worker positions will also be filled within the same period. 

“We are undertaking to absorb all the qualifying 2 625 medical interns, and 6 786 community service health professionals, including an anticipated 700 additional graduates from the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro collaboration programme on training medical students in Cuba. 

“The joint team of National Department of Health and National Treasury have met to reprioritise the budget and identify vacant posts to be converted into professional service delivery posts,” Mkhize said. 

Implementation of the NHI 

After Cabinet approved the NHI Bill for tabling in Parliament for public consultation, the structure of the National Department of Health will be reorganised to support the implementation of the NHI.  

“The NHI Implementation Unit will be established while the legislative processes are underway.  

“This unit will form the embryo of the National Health Insurance Fund. Capacity building for staff that will be in this unit will be undertaken,” said the Minister. 

In the implementation of the NHI, the department has developed the Health Patient Registration System.  

The system will be the backbone of an electronic health patient record.  

“We have already registered 42.6 million users on the system and all South Africans will be registered by the end of this financial year. 

“We support the Department of Home affairs in the registration of babies in our hospitals, as they will then be registered automatically on the NHI patient register.  

“NHI will require a digital health platform that will support the operations of the NHI Fund and work has already commenced in this regard,” said Mkhize.  

The department has identified over 30 managers at various levels of the health system, who will receive training within the next four weeks -- supported by international development partners. These managers will learn about how NHI is implemented from different parts of the world to ensure sustainability of implementation. 

Mobile app to monitor drug stock-outs 

Mkhize announced the development of a mobile App linked to a call centre that will allow instant reporting by patients or civil society whenever vital medication is unavailable at clinics and hospitals. 

“This information will enable authorities at provincial and national level to immediately intervene,” he said.   

He said where there are global shortages of medicines, the department will work tirelessly to timeously identify alternative global suppliers or therapeutic alternatives. 

“We are also exploring procurement of available software for prescription and delivery of medication to centres closest to patients. 

“Patients would not need to go to hospitals for the sole purpose of collecting medicines. We will partner with NGOs to take advantage of IT systems that have already been piloted in the country. 

“In this way, we want to ensure that the entire health system can guarantee security of supply of medicine and timely delivery of chronic medication in areas including townships, informal settlements and rural areas, as has already been demonstrated in Alexander, Diepsloot, Bara and Ndofaya malls,” he said. –