The South African healthcare system is faced with many challenges, including the imbalance of professional healthcare workers and services between urban and rural communities, unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has intensified this problem.
Dr Lungile Hobe-Nxumalo, Chair of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa, explained in a recent article that, while rural communities form 42% of the public health system in South Africa, only 15% of the doctors and 20% of nurses are based in rural areas. She added that the shortage of human resources is a challenge that will leave rural populations being hardest hit by the pandemic.
Supported by the government, communities and donors, Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF) addresses the shortage of skills by identifying, investing and supporting rural youth who have the potential, and interest in becoming qualified healthcare providers.
In partnership with 15 rural hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, the UYDF consigns its graduates to work at their local rural hospital for the same number of years they were supported for. Some of the health science disciplines include doctors, emergency medical rescue services, biomedical technologists, nurses, radiographers and more.
Over the past 20years UYDF has yielded 434 graduates where 98% of these graduates have returned to work in their rural communities on completion of studies, and the majority continue to work there. Just last year, the organisation supported 219 students.
UYDF Director, Dr Gavin MacGregor, said: “It is costly to run the organisation, a clear vision, concrete plans and amazing partners have helped us make a difference to so many living in rural communities. He added in order for the programme to be extended, they need to raise an additional R6m in annual funding commitments before the end of this year.
“One area UYDF has historically struggled with is to put its amazing story in front of major donors, so we are delighted to announce a major pledge in this regard, “said MacGregor.
In 2019, digital marketing agency,Rogerwilco provided UYDF with a digital makeover. The agency recently committed services to the value of R600,000 for the next 12-months as part of its CSI initiative. “It’s so important for us to be able to play a part in stimulating local youth development and ultimately help the UYDF build hope and prosperity within rural communities,” said Charlie Stewart, Rogerwilco CEO
“While this coincides with Mandela Day, our involvement goes beyond a single day or even 67-minutes. We’re proud to contribute to one of the most sustainable solutions for the long-term supply of professional healthcare workers, which is already severely overburdened,” he said,” concluded Stewart.