Saving lives. Reaching millions. Making a difference. These are some of the reasons health professionals choose to work in South Africa’s public health sector.
As an innovative partner in the public healthcare sector, Africa Health Placements (AHP) is launching a photo campaign, called #iampublichealth. AHP will share the rewards of working in public health through the eyes of those in the public sector. With this campaign AHP hopes to change perceptions of public health and attract more local health workers to hospitals in rural and underserved communities where only 12% of our doctors and 19% of the country’s nurses work.
This shortage of qualified medical staff is a massive challenge in the provision of healthcare worldwide. One of the biggest challenges facing the public health system in South Africa today is the shortage of healthcare workers. According to the Department of Health the country had an estimated shortfall of approximately 80 000 healthcare professionals in 2011. Working with the Department of Health and the Health Professions Council of South Africa, AHP has placed more than 3 000 health professionals and support staff in rural and underserved areas since 2005.
Stacey Pillay, AHP’s Recruitment Manager, says there are many benefits to working in public health, particularly in rural areas. She encourages health professionals to consider working in a rural community and says there are opportunities to expand their clinical skills, as they deal with trauma, obstetrics, anaesthesia and HIV/Aids. Doctors can also enjoy a rural lifestyle, while making a difference in public health. “Working in public health comes with many opportunities to advance your career and have a real impact on the quality of care in rural hospitals.”
Dr Craig Inch worked as a dentist in private practice for seven years in the Western Cape before he made the move to the public sector in Barberton, Mpumalanga. Inch says working in the public sector is much less stressful than running a private practice in the city. “You are not stuck in an office all day. The work is less clinically precise, but it is also more diverse. You deal with rural diseases, car accidents and fractured jaws. You don’t see that in private practice.”
Doctor Elaine Yip from the UK travelled thousands of kilometres to work in South Africa’s public health sector. Working at the Church of Scotland Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal she is making a difference, providing access to healthcare for many in this small community. “South Africa is an attractive option and I came here to broaden my experience in different fields of medicine,” says Yip.
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