Countries Warned Of Looming Global Nurse Shortage


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on countries to train more nurses as a catastrophic global shortage looms. This sentiment was echoed in South Africa as the health minister acknowledged that the government must employ more healthcare workers.




According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 28 million nurses around the globe. While the number of nurses increased by 4.7 million from 2013 to 18, a shortfall of 5.9 million nurses remains.

The WHO expects one out of every six of the world's nurses to retire over the next decade which could lead to a global shortage of nurses. They believe that countries need to increase the total number of nurse graduates by 8% per year to avert this potential crisis.

Data from the South African Nursing Council showed that around 280,000 nurses were employed in South Africa in 2021. The population-to-qualified nurse ratio showed that one nurse caters to 213 people. 

Dr Sharon Vasuthevan, Education Executive at Life Healthcare says the country had a shortage of nurses even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

A recent study by the Department of Health (DOH) showed that the country could have a shortage of between 26 000 and 62 000 nurses. Vasuthevan adds that attrition due to retirement could see this shortage climb between 131,000 and 160,000 by 2030.

Vasuthevan says that the recent move of nursing regulation into higher education has presented some challenges. This move resulted in a new accreditation process that private nursing training providers had to be subjected to.

They say that this bureaucracy results in delays in getting programmes running which slows down the training of new nurses..

“We need to be training more people that could serve our communities. We need more midwives, we can see the highest litigation comes from maternity and my approach to this is that this is a crisis,” explained Vasuthevan.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Progress has been made with regards to the stability in the employment of 47 000 Community Health Workers but acknowledged that work still needs to be done to finalise the nature of their long-term engagement.





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