Rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal will benefit from the deployment of over 200 medical practitioners across the province.
The province’s MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, says the deployment of the practitioners is in line with government’s efforts to bring services closer to people.
“This is in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities article 26 where it is stated that the provision of rehabilitation should be offered as close as possible to where people live.
“It also helps at improving accessibility and making health services affordable to our people wherever they are,” Dr Dhlomo explains.
He has welcomed a group of 171 therapists that include physio, occupational and speech therapists as well as the 30 dentists who will be based in institutions across the province.
The 201-strong team of recently qualified medical professionals received orientation and induction at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
They will spend 60 per cent of their time doing community work and the remaining 40 per cent at the hospital level.
Bethesda, Hlabisa, Manguzi, Mosvold and Mseleni hospitals will each receive two physiotherapists, two occupational therapists and one audiologist.
Three of the 30 dentists will be serving at the Hlabisa and Mseleni hospitals in the uMkhanyakude District Municipality in Manguzi.
Other rural hospitals that will receive dentists include Christ The King, St Appollinaris, Rietvlei, EG and Usher Memorial, which all fall under the Harry Gwala District Municipality.
“With this allocation we are trying by all means to ensure that our patients who visit health care institutions, including those that are in the rural areas, get a full package of services in their own areas.
“We have also ensured comfort for both the therapists and dentists by giving them state accommodation as well as rural allowance as we eventually wish to retain them upon completion of their community service,” says Dr Dhlomo.
Community service for doctors and dentists was introduced in the country in 2000 by the then Minister of Health, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, and then expanded to cover therapists in 2003.
Dr Dhlomo says this has benefited rural disadvantaged hospitals and communities, who now receive much-needed rehabilitation and oral health services closer to their homes.