Where are general surgeons located in South Africa?
Background: Human resources are the backbone of health-care delivery systems and the lack of surgical workforce in developing countries is often the greatest challenge to providing surgical care. The workforce availability and composition is an important indicator of the strength of the health system. This study aimed to analyse the distribution of general surgeons within South Africa.
Methods: A descriptive analysis of the general surgical workforce in South Africa was performed. The total number of specialist and non-specialist general surgeons working in the public sector in South Africa was documented between the periods from the 1 October 2014 until 31 December 2014.
Results: There were significant disparities in the number and distribution of general surgeons in South Africa. There were 1.78 specialist general surgeons per 100 000, of which 0.69 per 100 000 specialist general surgeons were working in the public sector. There were 2.90 non-specialist general surgeons per 100 000. There were 6 specialist general surgeons per 100 000 insured population working in the private sector, which is comparable with the United States (US). Urban provinces such as Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had the largest number of specialist general surgeons per 100 000. These areas had the largest number of medical aid beneficiaries and nearly 60% of specialist general surgeons were estimated to work exclusively in the private sector.
Conclusion: There was a major shortage of surgical providers in South Africa, and in particular the public sector.
Keywords: Global surgery, Surgical Resources, General surgeons