HEALTH Minister Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday announced plans to build six new academic hospitals and medical schools in the next decade, in a bid to address SA’s pressing shortage of well-trained healthcare professionals.
Dr Motsoaledi made the announcement in Johannesburg when he introduced the department’s Human Resources for Health Strategy, a key building block in the implementation of National Health Insurance.
"We know that to train more people you need superior infrastructure. We are not only producing a human resources plan but equally producing a plan on infrastructure," Dr Motsoaledi said. He said SA was producing 1200 medical doctors a year but the number needed to be tripled at the least .
The Democratic Alliance (DA) last year estimated that the public sector was short of at least 12000 doctors and 46000 nurses.
The plan includes establishing a new medical school in Limpopo and refurbishing the Nelson Mandela Academic hospital in Mthatha. "That is why we are demerging the University of Limpopo Medunsa campus and the Turfloop campus. We need to rebuild Medunsa to what it used to be in the past before we wrongly thought we could change it," Dr Motsoaledi said.
The new hospital structures will be at Chris Hani Baragwanath in Johannesburg, George Mukhari Academic hospital in Pretoria, King Edward VIII hospital in Durban and a new hospital in Nelspruit. "We have to rebuild a new Chris Hani Baragwanath. It will be a new structure altogether, perhaps we will break and build as the engineers will tell us."
The minister said the new facilities, which would be built over the next 14 years, would cost more than the stadiums SA built for the Soccer World Cup — at a cost of about R10bn. The project had been approved by both President and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Fidel Hadebe, spokesman for the minister, said a final cost had not been put to the projects as planning had not been finalised. The Treasury said yesterday it expected the planning and design phase to be implemented through private-public partnerships.
The new institutions would complement SA’s eight existing medical schools at Medunsa, and the universities of Cape Town, KwaZulu-Natal, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Free State, Witwatersrand (Wits) and Transkei. SA has several academic hospitals such as Groote Schuur in Cape Town and the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg, the main teaching hospital for Wits students.
Dr Motsoaledi said skills shortages had been a challenge for the health department, and the low intake of medical students at universities and early retirement of specialist professionals was part of the problem. He said the department would spend R1,24bn over the next three years to revitalise 122 nursing colleges.
The minister said the department was also creating posts for medical professionals at a district level.
"These district teams will consist of an obstetrician, gynaecologist, pediatrician, family physician and anaesthetist," he said. "This running to a private specialist for every ailment is abnormal. Public healthcare should be the first step."
DA health spokesman in Gauteng Jack Bloom warned that the projects had to be managed properly to avoid an escalation of costs. "In Gauteng we had two hospitals that took twice as much money and twice the time to complete. "