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Survey shows impact of unrest on healthcare professionals

29 October 2021

A survey has showed the impact of the July unrest on South Africa’s healthcare professionals, as many had to reduce or stop practice, and some said concerns about the safety of themselves, their colleagues and their patients impacted on their mental wellbeing.

In the Medical Protection survey of over 500 healthcare professionals, two thirds (67%) of respondents said their practice had reduced in some way during the unrest, with 6% saying they stopped practice altogether due to themselves or their staff being too scared or unable to get to the practice. Half (50%) said they had lost income as a result of the unrest. While only 17% considered leaving the medical profession following the unrest, 61% said it had caused them to consider leaving South Africa to work in another country.

Medical Protection – the leading protection organisation supporting around 30,000 healthcare professionals in South Africa – said the survey results are a stark reminder that during unsettling times, healthcare professionals require as much support as the patients they treat.

Dr Graham Howarth, Head of Medical Services – Africa, at Medical Protection, said: “This survey was carried out following the immediate aftermath of the unrest, giving healthcare professionals time to reflect on the impact. While the challenges experienced certainly did not begin or end during the July unrest, the impact of this unsettling time on those who care for us cannot be overstated.

“Most communities in South Africa were affected in some way and it is perhaps unsurprising that two thirds of healthcare professionals said their practice had reduced in some way during the unrest. However, for healthcare professionals the unrest compounded existing stressors including the Covid-19 pandemic, high levels of abuse directed at doctors, and worsening mental wellbeing.

“Some survey respondents commented anecdotally that they had feared for their own lives and livelihoods during the unrest, others talked about the emotional distress of having to balance the needs of patients with the safety of their staff.

“It is particularly concerning that more than six out of ten healthcare professionals said the unrest caused them to consider leaving South Africa and practice elsewhere, particularly at a time when doctors are needed more than ever.

“Medical Protection contacted members throughout South Africa during the unrest both to offer moral and practical support, including our independent, confidential counselling service, and reduced subscriptions if their work was impacted by either the unrest or Covid-19.

“While this support has been well received, the survey results are a stark reminder that during unsettling times, healthcare professionals require as much support as the patients they treat.”

ENDS

For further information contact: pressoffice@medicalprotection.org

The Medical Protection survey was sent to healthcare professionals in the Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng provinces. There were 536 responses between 27 August to 10th September 2021.

About MPS

Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of almost 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.