Medical school combats rural doctor shortage

From Global development | The Guardian Wed Jan 9 2013, 07:13:22

Ukwanda clinical school pioneers programme that sends final-year students to live and work in rural health districts

A South African medical school has become the first in Africa to address the continent's chronic shortage of rural doctors by sending students to spend their final year among the vineyard workers and fruit-pickers of the Western Cape.

"We are trying to do something about the fact that 43% of South Africans live in rural areas but only 12% of doctors work there," says Hoffie Conradie, a former rural GP who is director of the University of Stellenbosch's year-old Ukwanda rural clinical school.

South Africa has a critical shortage of doctors - 0.57 doctors for every 1,000 people, compared with an average of two to five doctors in developed countries. Africa-wide, the World Health Organisation says 36 countries face a critical shortage of health personnel. Worldwide, recruiting doctors for rural practices is a challenge and the 65m Rand ($7.6m, £4.7m) Ukwanda initiative is modelled on schools in Australia and Canada.

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