Doctors on the move

July 21, 1995

Karen Mac Gregor's article (THES, May 19) on doctors leaving South Africa, perpetuates a perception rather than reporting established facts.

A study, published in the South African Medical Journal in 1975, analysed the domicile of 3,646 medical graduates of the University of the Wi****ersrand who had graduated between 1925 and 1972. Of these graduates 83.6 per cent (3,048) lived in South Africa, 2.3 per cent lived in the rest of Africa and 14.1 per cent lived in the rest of the world.

Since 1972 another 3,953 medical students have graduated and the domicile of 3,306 of them have been determined from University records. Of these, 2,965 (89.7 per cent) have a South African address. Combining this sample with the 1925-72 graduates which the university still has on its records (a total of 5,294 graduates) we have determined that 83 per cent of our graduates have a South African address, 0.8 per cent live in the rest of Africa and 16.2 per cent live in the rest of the world.

Between 1990 and 1993 we produced 775 graduates, 762 of whom (98 per cent) give a South African address. The perception of mass emigration is, therefore, not sustained by these figures.

In addition the South African Medical and Dental Council reported that there were 25,126 medical doctors registered with the council at the end of 1994. Some 9,078 of these (36 per cent) were graduates of the universities of Cape Town and Wi****ersrand.

The other five South African medical schools contributed 11,420 graduates (4 per cent per cent) and the remainder were products of ten other countries.

The seven South African schools are producing about 1,000 medical graduates each year. Against this background the fact that 76 doctors (0.3 per cent of the total) left (according to Mac Gregor's article) is not a catastrophe.

Interestingly the number of doctors whose primary qualification was obtained in the United Kingdom and who were registered with the SAMDC, declined by 64 during 1994. So a conclusion is that the tiny number of doctors who are "emigrating" may not even be South Africans.

G. Mitchell Deputy dean Faculty of medicine University of Wi****ersrand

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