SA-UK Bilateral Forum Ministerial Meeting
25 August 2004, Marks Building, Parliament
We had a fruitful meeting with my colleague, the Minister of State for Health, Mr John Hutton this afternoon. This was an important meeting as it was our first bilateral Health Ministerial Meeting within the SA-UK Bilateral Forum.
It is important to trace how we have reached this point in our cooperation as the health sector. We recognize that international migration of health professionals is a challenge facing many developing countries, particularly in the African continent. That is why this has been a topical issue within the Commonwealth Health Ministers meeting over the past few years.
Within the Commonwealth, we established a task group to develop an International Code of Practice on the Ethical Recruitment of Health Workers and both South Africa and the UK participated in this task team. The Commonwealth has already adopted this Code of Practice and the World Health Assembly adopted a similar resolution in May this year.
As South Africa, we note that the UK was the first country to produce guidelines on international recruitment based on ethical principles, and the first to develop a Code of Practice for Employers.
It was important that, as the two countries, we went further in implementing these Codes. We entered into bilateral discussions to ensure that these ideals do not remain just on paper. We had to demonstrate that the provisions of this Code of Practice could be effected. This culminated in a unique cooperation with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries in October last year.
This agreement is being cited by amongst others, the International Labour Organisation, and the International Organisation on Migration as a good example of how issues of international migration of professionals should be managed.
Progress has been made in various areas of cooperation included in the MoU.
The MoU encourages the creation of education and practice opportunities that should allow South African health professionals to work for a specified period in organisations providing NHS services.
A study conducted by the World Health Organisation in six countries including South Africa, indicated that a large majority of our health professionals migrated because they needed international exposure and experience. By providing this opportunity, South Africans can get this exposure and return to the country with newly acquired skills and experience.
To this end the following has been achieved: We have seen great enthusiasm among our radiographers who would like to be placed in the UK and have accordingly submitted their CV's. Some provinces have already submitted names of nurses who have been nominated for the exchange programme. A draft policy guideline and contract have been developed on the recruitment of personnel.
A second part of the agreement was to enable clinical staff from the UK to work in South Africa, especially in our rural or underserved areas. We currently have over eighty health professionals from the UK working in underserved areas in South Africa through various initiatives. We have agreed to strengthen the implementation of this part of our agreement.
South Africa is also keen to attract back South Africans living in various parts of the world to contribute in the rebuilding of our country. Working with the International Organisation on Migration, we are exploring the development of a repatriation strategy. We discussed with Minister Hutton possibility of encouraging South Africans living in the UK to be part of a programme of placing health professionals in South Africa, using the MoU that we signed.
We have agreed to explore the possibility of employing a project manager for this programme. We will raise awareness about the available opportunities in South Africa to encourage placements.
Another area of active cooperation is the monitoring of recruitment agencies accredited by the UK government. There is an active process of screening all agencies that are recruiting from South Africa. However, there are still a number of agencies that ignore the code of practice which prevent them from recruiting in South Africa and they continue to recruit mostly into the private sector in the UK. We greed to encourage the private health sector to become part of the code and the NHS can its influence to encourage its private suppliers to adhere to the code.
The hospital revitalization programme has been implemented under three key components, which are Quality Improvement, Organisational and Facility Development. The SA-UK Agreement has contributed in improving governance in our Hospitals. Regulations for Hospital Governance have been developed under the new National Health Act. Most of our Hospitals are now run along business principles, based on performance agreements between the provinces and the Hospitals with clear indicators.
Hospital twinning has contributed towards the realisation of our vision of a caring nation. To date, 250 managers have shared experiences, protocols and best practices with their international counterparts. Most of these exchanges occurred between South Africa and the UK Health Trusts.
Of these, the most outstanding have been the following:
- University Hospital UK Birmingham and Tygerberg Hospital;
- Oxford Radcliffe Trust and Kimberley Hospital;
- Rockingham Forest NHS Trust and Potchefstroom Complex; as well as
- Papworth Hospital, Cambrige and Wentworth Hospital.
The twinning between the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust and the Kimberley Hospital is a good example of the success of this cooperation. To date there have been approximately thirty (30) nurses from Kimberley Hospital who have been placed in Oxford for theoretical and practical training. Doctors have also been placed to develop further skills and experience in Paediatrics. Through the twinning programme we have also had senior nurses from the UK working in Kimberly as mentors.
We discussed the challenges around staffing at the Red Cross Children's Hospital, which services not only the children of South Africa, but of Africa as a whole. There will be further interaction between the Department of Health and the Royal College of Paediatricians to utilize our agreement for the benefit of the Red Cross Hospital. We will be visiting this hospital together with the UK delegation tomorrow.
We are proud of the unique agreement that we have with the UK and this meeting has provided us with an opportunity to review progress and strengthen the implementation of this agreement.