Eastern Cape faces surgical-services crisis

Health care in the Eastern Cape faces a collapse in surgical services if a shortage of general surgeons continues, Dispatch Online reported on Tuesday.

It quoted Association of Surgeons in South Africa (ASSA) chairperson Dr Sats Pillay as saying: “I have nobody to train as surgeons.”

Pillay, who is head of surgery at Port Elizabeth’s Livingstone Hospital, said ASSA has raised the issue with the Department of Health and the South African Medical Association.

Out of 30 junior doctors in East London’s Frere Hospital, only 10 wanted to specialise as general surgeons.

The figure at Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Hospital is worse, where only six out of 30 junior doctors currently working there want to become general surgeons.

At Livingstone, where Pillay teaches, six out of 28 doctors want to specialise in general surgery.

“The Eastern Cape is worse off than the other provinces. It is very difficult to attract doctors to work here,” he said.

Pillay said South Africa was only producing 25 newly qualified general surgeons per year, well below the 60 to 70 needed to provide the necessary services.

“Twenty years down the line there will be no general surgeons in South Africa if this trend continues.”—Sapa

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