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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


Medical councils of Africa to tackle chronic staff shortages and underinvestment in health

Figureheads in the global health sector are attending the four-day event to tackle problems facing the global health industry.


The 24th international health sector conference for the Association of Medical Councils of Africa is currently underway at Sun City in Rustenburg.

Figureheads from all over the world are attending the four-day event to tackle industry-related problems.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla opened the conference on Monday morning.

“The theme of this conference, “The Future of the Health Workforce and its Regulation,” focuses on some aspects that have been challenging health systems for many decades,” Phaahla told delegates.

Health post-pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic forced health workers to modify how medical services are rendered, and it also forced humankind to modify certain behaviours.

“As we were all grappling with emergency measures to respond to the pandemic, the chronic problems of serious shortages in the skilled medical workforce, especially in our African continent, became pronounced,” said Phaahla.

But these shortages continue even after the pandemic.

“Most of our countries’ health budgets are getting constrained due to subdued economic growth or even decline in some instances. This certainly puts a lot of pressure on the whole medical ecosystem.”

Chronic under-investment in education and training of health workers

Phaahla noted that in many countries, there is a mismatch between education and employment strategies concerning health systems and population needs.

These contribute to a continuous shortage in the medical workforce, especially in rural, remote and underserved areas.

Among the numerous problems associated with health care training is an emerging trend known as ‘scope creep’.

“The shortage of medical workers appropriately trained and registered for specified scopes of practice often leads to those not trained in that category taking over,” explained Phaahla.

“This is sometimes borne out of a desire to save a life but ending up violating the regulations. It is therefore important that the health professions councils give attention to this.”

Lessons from Covid-19

During the start and height of the pandemic, it was abundantly clear that medical workers on the frontline were most vulnerable.

In the early months of the pandemic, health workers made up 14% of all new COVID-19 cases.

Phaahla estimated that between 80,000 and 180,000 medical and care workers died from the virus between January 2020 and May 2021.

“Therefore, regulatory frameworks need to be made nimbler, agile, and responsive to meet the needs of modern society.”

The pandemic also worsened the ‘human resource crisis’ in the health sector. Phaahla warned that a global undersupply of human resources threatens medical systems worldwide.

Compiled by Narissa Subramoney

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