Solving South Africa’s nursing shortage is possible by partnering with Temporary Employment Service providers

By Sandra Sampson, Director at Allmed Healthcare Professionals

Despite the fact that it was observed in 2010 that South Africa has a shortage of more than 44 700 professionals, nursing was only added to the critical skills list late in 2022. As an indication of how dire the shortage is, the supply of qualified personnel in all nursing categories has decreased by almost 40% since 2013. There are many factors that have contributed to this growing deficit, including inadequate training and student outputs, positions not being filled, an aging workforce, lucrative overseas opportunities, and poor working conditions that have only worsened due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Currently, the nurse-to-patient ratio stands at 1 nurse for every 218 patients, according to the South African Nursing Council. The ideal ratio is 1:6, starkly highlighting the depth of the crisis. Addressing this shortage requires a coordinated approach from Government, civil society, and the private sector if we’re to avoid total collapse of the healthcare sector, with Temporary Employment Service (TES) providers leading the way.

Patient care is top priority

Given the fact that there are a reported 12 000 vacancies for doctors and nurses in SA’s public healthcare sector, along with increasing talent migration to destinations like the United Kingdom and New Zealand, partnering with a TES provider would be an effective step in preventing the skills shortage from becoming irreversible. Looking at the example of developed economies, TES providers can also assist in sourcing foreign skilled labour to bolster the medical sector until training and student outputs recover. While foreign skills should only be brought in as a last resort in other sectors, it’s important to bear in mind that patient care is the top priority here, which trumps all other considerations.

Contributing to nursing skills development

TES providers are ideally positioned to assist with addressing and reversing the nursing skills shortage because such organisations can facilitate the training and induction of newly trained nurses into the sector. By giving freshly qualified nurses the opportunity to moonlight at a variety of medical facilities, TES providers can empower individuals to gain vital experience and upskill themselves rapidly, contributing to the enhancement of the quality of nursing care. As part of their Service Level Agreements with healthcare facilities and government departments, TES providers have permanent clinical facilitators for the upskilling of their nursing personnel. These facilitators are registered nurses with specialist qualifications who provide upskilling and remedial training in skills such as trauma care, contributing to the enhancement of professional competencies.

Enabling operational efficiency

While contributing to skills development for nursing professionals, TES providers can also supply healthcare facilities with a flexible on-demand workforce, which is the most cost-effective way to deliver high quality service. Hospitals and medical facilities can outsource at least 50% of their staffing requirements to TES providers, which reduces the operational burden in terms of labour relations management, wages, and administration. With this, more focus can be placed on utilising other resources to deliver adequate patient care. This will also alleviate existing conditions under which permanently employed nursing professionals are overworked, giving them much-needed opportunity to take leave and prioritise their own health and mental well-being.

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