Identifying the determinants of and solutions to the shortage of doctors in South Africa: Is there a role for the private sector in medical education?

South Africa has a shortage of medical doctors. Whereas South Africa had 60 doctors per 100,000 citizens in 2013, the world average was 152 doctors per 100,000 citizens in the same year. Large inequalities in the distribution of resources between the public and the private sector, as well as between rural and urban areas exacerbate the shortage. The effect of South Africa’s doctor shortage is already of concern but will be felt more acutely under the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) plan, currently in its pilot phase. In this report we discuss the various initiatives by national or provincial governments, universities and the private sector to address the lack of training capacity for healthcare professionals in South Africa. We also discuss initiatives of other developing countries that have encouraged the expansion of medical training in various ways.