Red tape throttles foreign nurses
After waiting four years for a work permit, Butholezwe Nyathi will have to wait for anywhere between two and 10 more to be registered with the SA Nursing Council (Sanc). Only then can the qualified nurse, a Zimbabwean citizen, get to work here.
While he’s waiting, South Africa is battling with a shortage of about 38 000 nurses.
Nyathi and other foreign nurses are being kept out of clinics and hospitals by red tape, a new report by Wits University’s African Centre for Migration & Society reveals.
The report, titled A Disposable Workforce: Foreign Health Professionals in the South African Public Service, found that just 1.5% of our country’s 173 080 nurses and doctors are from elsewhere in the world.
The report’s lead author, associate professor Aurelia Segatti, said the health department was missing an opportunity by ignoring thousands of qualified nurses from other countries who could “fill the gap” in the understaffed state sector.
“South Africa is experiencing a shortage of nurses. One would have thought that while government is increasing the number of nurses being trained in public and private institutions, it would place foreign qualified nurses to fill the gap in the meantime,” said Segatti.
Dr Terence Carter, the health department’s deputy director-general responsibleforworkforcedevelopment and planning, said he wasn’t aware of any delays in registering foreign nurses.
Carter said: “If there are delays, it is usually due to the required paper not beingfiledathomeaffairsorthenursing council.”
South Africa’s nursing colleges and universities produce between 3 000 and 4 000 nurses a year combined. The most recent available health department statistics, from 2011, put the shortage of nurses at 38 000.
Nyathi wishes he could help. “I am passionate about nursing and have been missing it since I was forced to leave the profession in 2012, when Sanc deregistered me because home affairs had reduced my refugee permit to six months.”
He’s been battling the system since he moved here in 2003. He worked at Potchefstroom Hospital in North West for four years until he was deregistered.
This week, the process started all over again. He’s upbeat, but Segatti warns that “enormous red tape” and lost documents often hinder foreigners’ registration.
Delays [are] usually due to the required paper not being filed