Durban is planning to become the first city in the country to set up its own environmental cancer surveillance unit. The move coincides with a national process to declare cancer a reportable disease and improve data collection on the disease, which kills or disfigures several thousand South Africans every year. Ten years ago The Mercury uncovered evidence of potentially high cancer rates in children in Durban's southern industrial area. Official figures suggest that at least 50 000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed around the country every year, although these statistics are recognised as an underestimation of the true picture. The aim of the new surveillance unit (or registry) is to monitor the number and different types of cancer cases in the Durban area by gathering accurate information on where, how and why the disease occurs, and the extent to which air pollution and other environmental risks might add to the cancer burden. Siva Chetty, the deputy head of pollution control for the eThekwini Health Department, said the plan was to start collecting information on cancer cases in Durban by next year.
By 2011 South Africa will have an estimated shortfall of 19 000 nurses, and while the country trains enough doctors to serve the population, the problem of a huge shortage of doctors in the public sector will probably not be solved in the near future. These are some of the conclusions in a range of studies on skills development and shortages commissioned or conducted by the HSRC’s Human Resources Development research programme. The studies aim at providing the best empirical overview of the nature and extent of the scarce skills issue and form part of the Human Resources Review 2003, which will be published later this year. This research falls within the ambit of one of the key development challenges facing South Africa, as identified by President Mbeki. The issue has been taken up elsewhere in the government too, most notably in the development of the new Immigration Act, where a new strategy for attracting such skills from outside the country has been developed. In a preview of the Human Resources Review’s findings in two areas, namely health and engineering, researchers Johan Erasmus and Elsje Hall of the HSRC’s Economic and Employment Policy Research (EEPR) programme, examines the likely extent of shortages of doctors and nurses in the next decade. Even with recruitment to address the 25% vacancy rate in the public system, Erasmus and Hall predict a shortfall of nearly 19 000 nurses by 2011. Erasmus and Hall found that the supply of new doctors from medical schools is likely to slightly outweigh the loss of staff through retirement, illness and emigration. However, this positive picture needs to be carefully qualified: firstly, recent statements by representatives of junior doctors and medical students suggest that the already high levels of migration of doctors may increase significantly; secondly, the projected growth in supply of doctors would not address the major problem that 27% of posts for doctors in the public sector are unfilled; and thirdly, the projections assume that the current disparities and weaknesses within the health system will not be addressed. This would leave unchanged a ratio of doctors to overall population and a situation where only 29% of doctors meet the needs of the 84% of the population not covered by medical aid schemes. It would also not redress the massive inter-provincial and rural-urban disparities in the supply of doctors. In the case of the nursing profession, the bulk of nurses have remained within the public system and have more successfully been deployed across the country. The ratio of nurses to overall population is also more favourable. (Source: Simon McGrath, HSRC Review Vol1 no 2) Dr Simon McGrath is a research director in the Human Resources Development research programme. The Human Resources Review 2003 will be published towards the end of 2003.
Environmental Affairs and Tourism minister Valli Moosa has commended the University of Natal's efforts to bring occupational and environmental health issues under the spotlight. The minister was speaking in Durban yesterday at the official launch of the new occupational and environmental health facility at the institution's Nelson R. Mandela Medical School. In partnership with government and the private sector, the centre aims to increase capacity in occupational health through education and training programmes. Issues to be addressed by the centre's researchers include waterborne diseases, waste (biomedical, hazardous, solid, liquid), sanitation and airborne and respiratory diseases. Delivering the keynote address at the launch, Mr Moosa said education and research in universities were essential for improving the consciousness of people on environmental health issues.He added that many developing countries were still faced with a problem where workers were often illiterate and untrained in the proper use and disposal of toxic chemicals and pollutants. Global industrialisation and world trade in chemicals has grown faster than the flow of information and awareness about associated health and environmental risks. To deal with this problem, the minister mentioned that his department was working together with the health department on a pollution and waste management strategy.Furthermore, the Draft Air Quality Bill, which was currently being developed by his department, would make provision for stricter emission standards for incinerators.(Source: BUANews, 11 March 2003).
Health Systems Trust
This publication is one of four which together form the second technical report of the Initiative for Sub-District Support. This second technical report documents the planning process in each of the four initial sites, namely Kakamas (Northern Cape), Mount Frere (Eastern Cape), Tonga and Shongwe (Mpumalanga) and Underberg/ Pholela/ Impendhle (KwaZulu-Natal).