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Working as a Foreign Doctor in South Africa

Working as a Foreign Doctor in South Africa

Working as a foreign doctor in South Africa could help in reducing an already dwindling number of doctors. Despite the challenges, many doctors coming to work in South Africa say it's one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences of their lives. 

Dreaming of Practicing Medicine in South Africa?

Healthcare in South Africa varies from the most basic primary health care offered by the state, to highly specialised high-tech health services available both in the public and private sector. The public sector is over stretched and under financed while the private sector is largely reserved for middle and high-income earners. Large numbers of people cannot access medical services and the problem is compounded by various public health challenges including the wide spread of diseases such as HIV, TB and a shortage of key medical personnel. In South Africa, most of health professionals prefer to work for the private sector.

According to the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the doctor-to-population ratio is estimated to be 0.77 doctors per 1000 people.

The vast majority of General Practitioners work in the private sector, therefore; South Africa has just one practicing doctor for every 4,219 people. The government of South Africa is responding with a plan to restructure and revitalise the health care system. In an attempt to boost the number of practicing doctors, the South African government signed an agreement of co-operation with Cuba in 1995. This enables them to recruit doctors from Cuba to practice in SA and also to send some of their medical students to Cuba for training. This has not only opened the road to health practitioners from Cuba but also from other countries as well.

To practice as a foreign medical doctor in South Africa, there are certain requirements which have to be met. A foreign practitioner (General Practitioner) will initially have to apply and register with the department of Public Services for a minimum period of five years. This has to be done through the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

The application process is as follows:

A. Non-Exam Candidates

This is category for candidates whose standard of education and qualifications are compactable with those received at South African Universities. They are not required by the board to an write exam. The following documents are required: 

  • CV
  • Original notarised degree (If the certificate/diploma is not in English, the original notarised certificate must be translated by a sworn translator and also sealed and notarised)
  • Certified passport copies
  • Proof of registration from home country

B. Exam Candidates

This category is for candidates whose standard of education and qualifications are not compactable with those received from South African Universities. Candidates are required to write exams as stipulated by the HPCSA board. The other required documents are the same as those required from non-exam candidates except that here the candidate needs to submit a formal letter stating that he/she wants to write the HPCSA exams.

Despite the challenges, many people find working in South Africa’s public health sector rewarding and interesting. Firstly, the opportunity to make a difference and to be appreciated by those who need your help is deeply satisfying. Secondly, there is plenty of opportunity for hands on work treating interesting injuries and sicknesses such as HIV/AIDS. Thirdly, most of the hospitals in South Africa are located in rural areas surrounded by beautiful landscapes. South Africa caters to a large tourist market and protects environments which make life more relaxing providing plenty of opportunities to reduce stress.