Healthcare workers want to leave South Africa – and foreign recruiters are making it easier: report

Amid a critical shortage of nurses and doctors in South Africa, healthcare workers are increasingly looking at their options overseas, the City Press reports.

The paper interviewed several nursing staff this week as part of International Nursing Day, finding that the response was less than optimistic for many.

Speaking to the City Press, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA said that many nurses are enquiring about opportunities overseas. The union said recruitment agencies from Europe were also setting up bases in South Africa to make the process of registering nurses from this country easier.

According to the City Press interviews, local nurses are unhappy with their earning potential and feel that there is no room to further their education in the country. Many said that they were unable to afford both a house and car – and said they were working with limited resources at hospitals and clinics.

Salary tracking websites, PayScale, Indeed and place the average salary for a nurse in South Africa within a broad range of R250,000 to R360,000 per year.

On the low-end, at an entry-level position, salaries are as low as R150,000 for a year – while top-end salaries for specialist nurses can be as much as R600,000.

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A more official tracking of nursing salary data can be found through public service nurse salaries.

Like many other public service workers, nurses in South Africa have not benefited from massive salary hikes over the last two years, with the third year of negotiated wage agreements (2021) between unions and the government falling away to an incremental rise in pay.

Effective July 2021, public service workers saw only a 1.5% increase in salaries, with a small cash bonus offered to those in lower salary bands.

Among nurses, nursing assistants remain the lowest paid at between R134,514 and R233,763 per year – or R11,200 to R19,500 per month.

The highest earners, meanwhile, are nursing managers and executive educators, who can earn as much as R1.08 million a year (R90,300 per month) – but these positions are few.

South Africa, like the rest of the world, is currently facing a nursing shortage. While the country has a contingent of around 280,000 nurses – equal to one nurse per 213 people -it needs as many 26,000 additional nurses to meet growing demand.

Meanwhile, health industry experts have warned that the country could see an exodus of doctors and other key medical personnel ahead of the planned introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

A survey conducted by the South African Medical Association – which represents the interests of over 12,000 medical professionals in the country – showed that as many as 38% of its members plan to emigrate from South Africa due to the planned introduction of the NHI.

As many as 6% of members said that they plan to emigrate for other reasons, while 17% of doctors said that they were unsure about leaving the country.

Other stakeholders have also warned that the country could also lose valuable training skills as professionals look to leave.

Read: Massive shortage of nurses in South Africa – here’s how much they get paid

Artmotion S.Africa

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