Doctors attended to quake survivors with mild injuries at the Jishishan County People's Hospital

Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla acknowledged the budgetary constraints from the government's end, noting that the department is working around the clock to help doctors get employment who want to serve the community.

"We are doing everything possible, working with the provincial Health Departments, to mobilize resources to fund vacant posts, especially in health facilities in underserved communities," he said on Monday, SA News reported.

Phaahla noted that many doctors complete statutory community service programs but stay unemployed, adding that doctors play an important role when it comes to the public health system of the country.

He encouraged all the graduates from medical school to do a two-year internship training in designated health facilities accredited by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

After finishing their internship, he urged health professionals to do one-year community service in health facilities, explaining that all "those graduates who were eligible for placement to do internship have been placed" and "all those who finished the internship and were eligible to start community service have been placed."

The minister said after finishing community service, a doctor can get registered with the HPCSA in the category of medical officer independent practice, which allows them to work on their own without any supervision and also work as a single private practitioner.

"We appreciate the fact that there are many medical officers who are now registered for independent practice, who prefer to stay in the public service," he said.

He added, "Unlike internship and community service, which are a statutory requirement and are subject to placement by the Department of Health, independent practitioners have an individual choice of where to go. We are unable to know how many wish to stay in the public service."

According to the minister, there were 825 unemployed medical doctors in January 2023 as per the trade union's list. He noted that out of 825 doctors, 694 have completed their community service by December 2023.

"However, the [provinces] place adverts at varying times, depending on several factors, especially budget availability," he said.

Phaahla noted that an entry-level community service doctor earns about R1.2 million per year while a chief specialist can earn R3 million per annum.