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COVID-19 response

No plans to include foreign-trained healthcare workers in COVID-19 response

covid 19

The South African Nursing Council (SANC) is fast-tracking applications by private hospital groups and provincial health departments to re-register retired nurses to prepare for what experts say is an expected wave of COVID-19 cases. But foreign-trained healthcare workers in South Africa say they’re still being sidelined in the response.

All nurses have to be registered with SANC to practice in the country, but nurses’ registrations lapse if they retire or fail to pay annual fees to the body. Now, the council says it’s allowing potential employers of nurses with out-of-date registrations to apply on their behalf, streamlining the process to get the healthcare workers back into understaffed wards, says SANC senior communications manager Adri van Eeden.

The body will, however, not be accepting applications from individual nurses looking to re-register during the outbreak.

And fast-tracking does not apply to new or foreign-trained nurses.

South Africa’s national lockdown has helped reduce new cases of the coronavirus known as SARS-Cov-2, chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Salim Abdool Karim told the nation in a televised address on 13 April. But Abdool Karim cautioned that it was unlikely the country would avoid a sharp increase in cases in the future. He explained that South Africa was already gearing up for an eventual wave of cases by, for instance, erecting field hospitals and increasing its capacity to conduct burials.

On April 27, more than 200 health professionals from Cuba arrived in South Africa to assist with the Covid-19 outbreak. In a press briefing, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that Cuba already sends doctors to South Africa as part of a longstanding partnership and that South Africa would be looking to capitalise on the Caribbean country’s community-based primary healthcare expertise.

Cuba is known for strong primary healthcare systems that helped the country achieve one of the world’s highest life expectancies, according to World Bank data, despite spending less per person on health than many other nations.

But, some doctors say South Africa could be doing more to make use of foreign and foreign-trained healthcare workers already within its borders.

Foreign-trained doctors turn up for UK emergency rooms

Within just weeks, the United Kingdom added more than 11 000 doctors to its workforce during the coronavirus outbreak by granting temporary registration to doctors who had given up their registration in the past three years, its General Medical Council announced in late March.

The regulator was able to do this quickly, it says on its website, because it actively emailed doctors as part of an opt-out program, meaning that clinicians were part of the project unless they declined to participate.

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