Human resources for nephrology in South Africa : a mixed-methods study
CITATION: Hassen, M., et al. 2020. Human resources for nephrology in South Africa : a mixed-methods study. PLoS ONE, 15(2):e0228890, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0228890.
The original publication is available at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund
Introduction: The global nephrology workforce is shrinking and, in many countries, is unable to meet healthcare needs. Accurate data pertaining to human resources in nephrology in South Africa is lacking. This data is critical for the planning and delivery of renal services and the training of nephrologists in South Africa to meet the challenge of the growing burden of chronic kidney disease. Methods: A cross-sectional study of adult and paediatric nephrologists currently delivering nephrology services in South Africa was conducted. Participants were identified using various data sources, including the register of the Health Professions Council of South Africa. This cohort of doctors was described in terms of their demographics and distribution. A survey was then conducted among these nephrologists to collect additional information on their training, scope of practice, job satisfaction, challenges and future plans. Finally, two focus group interviews were conducted to probe themes identified from the survey data. Results: A total of 120 adult nephrologists and 22 paediatric nephrologists were identified (an overall density of 2.5 per million population). There is a male predominance (66%) and the median age is 45 years. The bulk of the workforce (128 nephrologists, 92%) is distributed in three of the nine South African provinces, and two provinces have no nephrologist at all. The survey was completed by 57% of the nephrologists. Most reported positive attitudes to their chosen profession; however, 35 nephrologists (43%) reported an excessive workload, 9 (11%) were planning emigration and 15 (19%) were planning early retirement. A higher frequency of dissatisfaction regarding remuneration (39% vs. 15%) and unsatisfactory work conditions (35% vs. 13%) was observed amongst nephrologists working in the public sector compared to the private sector. A total of 13 nephrologists participated in the focus group interviews. The themes which were identified included that of a rewarding profession, an overall shortage of nephrologists, poor career planning, a need for changes to nephrologists’ training, excessive workloads with inadequate remuneration, and challenging work environments. Conclusion: There are insufficient numbers of nephrologists in South Africa, with a markedly uneven distribution amongst the provinces and healthcare sectors. Qualitative data indicate that South African nephrologists are faced with the challenges of a high workload, obstructive policies and unsatisfactory remuneration. In the public sector, a chronic lack of nephrologist posts and other resources are additional challenges. A substantial proportion of the workforce is contemplating emigration.