Having difficulty getting an airline booking to the US? The problem may well be that you're standing in line with a small army of pharmacists and their families due to leave SA over the next few weeks.
Behind this exodus is Albertson's, a $28bn/year turnover US retail pharmacy group with a staff of 200 000. One of their recruits, Cape Town pharmacist Keith Hughes, will be leaving behind a 20-year career to begin afresh in Delaware.
This was Albertson's third recruiting drive in SA, says Hughes. As a result of this round, I will be one of about 600 pharmacists that will be joining them. As an intern Hughes can expect an immediate $2 000/month income boost. After serving an internship of about six months in the US, you write a final exam. When you pass your salary is doubled immediately, says Hughes.
Ivan Kotze, chairman of the SA Pharmaceutical Society, confirms that agencies began recruiting SA pharmacists three years ago. How many pharmacists have already left SA and how many will go this time is impossible to say, Kotze says.
There are about 10 000 registered pharmacists in SA, of whom 2 500 are non-practising members. Of the remaining 7 500 registered members, it's impossible to say how many are still in SA, says Kotze. Most of those who emigrate retain their registration with us.
Kotze, who's also vice-chairman of the Commonwealth Association of Pharmacists, adds: All African countries face a major problem. There's an international staff shortage in all medical fields, including pharmacology. We wrote to the Minister of Health two years ago warning of this.
Also facing a big problem could be groups such as New Clicks and Pick 'n Pay, who have grand ambitions in SA's retail pharmacy sector.
Quizzed on the pharmacist exodus, Monica Goertz, New Clicks head of pharmacy operations, declined to comment. As unforthcoming was New Clicks team leader Trevor Honneysett. His contribution to transparency was a curt: I'm loath to be drawn into the issue.
Perhaps Hughes provides the best answer. Pharmacists are paid peanuts in SA.( Source: Stafford Thomas, Finance Week, 22 October 2003)