Hospital groups preventing brain drain
THE SA HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY IS tired of sitting back lamenting the skills shortage and brain drain it’s experiencing. It has now decided to roll up its sleeves and take it upon itself to solve the problem. The two biggest private companies, Network Healthcare Group (Netcare) and Medi-Clinic Private Hospital Group (MediClinic), announced steps to counter the skills emigration and shortage – particularly of nurses – in their 2006 annual reports.
Medi-Clinic said it had maintained the amount it spent in the prior year at 4% of its payroll. It had a total of 1 141 nursing students in its nursing schools in the year to March 2006, while its bigger competitor said it would double the number of nursing students at the Netcare Training Academy from 1 500 in 2007 to record figures since its inception.
Netcare CE Richard Friedland stated in his strategic review: “The skills shortage in South Africa of nurses, pharmacists and paramedics requires a national solution, as it’s the key factor limiting service delivery and growth in the sector.” Friedland said his company welcomed the Government’s initiative to increase its intake of nursing students. He said Netcare’s contribution to uplifting specialist skills in the healthcare sector was illustrated by its continued funding of nursing colleges across the country. “We have also been actively involved in attracting skilled professionals back to South Africa through our Woza Khaya (come back home) initiative,” said Friedland.
“The medium- to long-term solution remains the training of more staff by both the private and public sectors,” stated Medi-Clinic chairman Edwin Hertzog and CE Louis Alberts, in MediClinic’s 2006 annual report. “The initiative taken in 1997 to further expand our nursing education capacity has enabled us to reduce the effect of the nursing shortage on our commitment to quality care and will continue to do so in future.” However, Medi-Clinic is aware that urging expatriates to come back home in Fanakalo (lingua franca used by different language groups on the mines) won’t have the desired effect. It made moves to keep its staff in the system by offering them share ownership in the company. MediClinic created Mpilo Trust, which subscribed for 4% of the company’s issued share capital in its R1,1bn BEE deal. The Mpilo Trust would benefit nearly 11 000 employees – the majority of whom (52% black, 89% women) are previously disadvantaged. Each employee received a minimum of 1 000 shares and 80 for every year employed. As if to counter their move, Netcare said it had become one of the first large companies in SA to “significantly” subsidise medical aid cover to its staff that were unable to afford it.