Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has launched a programme to address the shortage of doctors in the country, particularly in rural
areas. Speaking in Johannesburg today ( 29 March 2004), the minister said although the country was producing a sufficient number of doctors through its eight medical schools, these doctors were being unevenly distributed due to their movement from rural to urban areas, public to private sectors and across the borders of the country.
Our realities are such that there are no obvious means of enforcing equitable distribution of health human resources based on need.
We therefore, have to be ever creative and innovative in addressing challenges facing South Africa's health care needs, she said.
In terms of the programme, medical assistants will be trained for three years followed by an internship in a district hospital.Students will be selected from a local community to be serviced with a minimum of matric qualification with a university exemption.
The programme is expected to enroll more than a hundred students when it is piloted next year and the number of students is expected to increase over the next five years.To practice, medical assistants must pass the national certificate examination set by the National Board of Medical Examiners.
They will receive a practicing license from the medical board and a medical doctor will be appointed to supervise the medical assistant.
Medical assistants will be placed in district hospitals and will be part of a team in different units such as emergency, maternity, out-patient or surgical unit.
In operating theatres, for instance, the assistants will assist doctors on basic procedures like incisions, drainage and evacuations, explained Dr Tshabalala-Msimang.The launch of the programme was also attended by delegations from the US and Tanzania who have implemented similar programmes in their countries since the 1960's. (Source: Candace Freeman, BuaNews, March 29, 2004)