Reflecting on the current scenario and forecasting the future demand for medical doctors in South Africa up to 2030: towards equal representation of women
Abstract Background Increasing feminization of medical professions is well-acknowledged. However, this does not always equate to equitable representation of women within medicine, regarding their socio-demographic indicators, regions, sectors and fields of practice. Thus, this paper quantifies the gap in supply of female medical doctors in relation to demand, towards reaching different gender equity scenarios. Methods A retrospective review of the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s (HPCSA) database on registered medical doctors (medical practitioners and medical specialists) from 2002 until 2019 was utilized as an indicator of supply. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize data, and inferential statistics (considering a significance level of 0.05) were utilized to determine the association between the number of male and female doctors, disaggregated by demographic variables. We forecasted future gaps of South African male and female doctors up to 2030, based on maintaining the current male-to-female ratio and attaining an equitable ratio of 1:1. Results While the ratio of female doctors per 10 000 population has increased between 2000 and 2019, from 1.2 to 3.2, it remains substantially lower than the comparative rate for male doctors per 10 000 population which increased from 3.5 in 2000 to 4.7 in 2019. Men continue to dominate the medical profession in 2019, representing 59.4% (27,579) of medical doctors registered with the HPCSA with females representing 40.6% (18,841), resulting in a male-to-female ratio of 1:0.7. Female doctors from the Black population group have constantly grown in the medical workforce from 4.4% (2000), to 12.5% (2019). There would be a deficit of 2242 female doctors by 2030 to achieve a 1:1 ratio between male and female medical doctors. An independent-samples t-test revealed that there was a significant difference in the number of male and female doctors. The Kruskal–Wallis test indicated that there was a sustained significant difference in terms of the number of male and female doctors by population groups and geographical distribution. Conclusions Based on the investigation, we propose that HRH planning incorporate forecasting methodologies towards reaching gender equity targets to inform planning for production of healthcare workers.