Africa says Canada is stealing MDs

South Africa is losing too many doctors, but ’it’s their problem’

Africa says Canada is stealing MDsSouth Africa needs doctors. The country is home to the world’s worst HIV epidemic, a growing tuberculosis problem, and high infant mortality rates. But rather than helping the struggling nation, South Africa’s high commissioner says Canada is doing the opposite: through intense recruiting campaigns, we’re poaching as many South African doctors as we can to help ease our own doctor shortage at home.

In a report, Dr. Abraham Sokaya Nkomo, South Africa’s high commissioner to Canada, complains that the doctors “migrate at a very high cost” to South Africa, causing “a huge loss of investment in education and training.” The report adds that Canada’s doctor poaching “makes it difficult to deliver good quality, easily accessible and equitable services” in South Africa.

Saskatchewan’s relatively high pay and an existing community of South African MDs make the province a top pick for emigrating doctors. Of 1,832 MDs in Saskatchewan, 277 family doctors and 96 medical specialists are South African immigrants, giving the province the highest per capita concentration of South African physicians in Canada.

Nkomo is calling for talks to help stem the flow of physicians, but his request is falling on deaf ears. “It’s really their own problem if physicians are having a difficult time in South Africa and they are leaving looking for better jobs,” says Dr. Fauzo Ramadan, the senior medical officer of the Five Hills Health Region in southern Saskatchewan. Bryan Salte, legal council for the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, adds that many doctors leave South Africa simply out of fear for their family’s security.

But while Ramadan thinks an agreement to stop poaching doctors is unnecessary, he does say that the province has a long-term goal of one day producing all its doctors domestically. “Our provincial policy is to concentrate on Canadian-trained physicians and increase recruitment and retention,” he says. “We are really working hard to increase Canadian-trained physicians.”