International medical graduates in South Africa and the implications of addressing the current surgical workforce shortage.
Kong VY., Odendaal JJ., Sartorius B., Clarke DL.
<h4>Background</h4>The surgical workforce in South Africa is currently insufficient in being able to meet the burden of surgical disease in the country. International medical graduates (IMGs) help to alleviate the deficit, yet very little is known about these doctors and their career progression in our healthcare system.<h4>Method</h4>The demographic profile and career progression of IMGs who worked in our surgical department in a major university hospital in South Africa was reviewed over a four-year period.<h4>Results</h4>Twenty-eight IMGs were identified. There were 23 males (92%) and their mean age was 33 years. Seventy-one per cent (20/28) were on a fixed-term service contract, and returned to their respective country of origin. The option of renewing their service contracts was available to the 16 IMGs who left. Three explicitly indicated they would have stayed in South Africa if formal training was possible. Eight of the 28 IMGs (29%) extended their tenure, and remained in the service position as medical officers. All of the eight IMGs stayed with the intention of entering a formal surgical training programme.<h4>Conclusion</h4>IMGs represented a significant proportion of service provision in our unit. Over one third of IMGs stayed beyond their initial tenure, and of these, all stayed in order to gain entry into the formal surgical training programme. A significant proportion of those who left would have stayed if entry to the programme was feasible.