SAMJ: South African Medical Journal
On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
BACKGROUND: An aim of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) project 'Strengthening Academic Medicine and Specialist Training' was to research the number and needs of specialists and subspecialists within South Africa. METHODS: Data were collected from several sources: Deans of the 8 Faculties of Health Sciences and the Presidents of the 27 constituent Colleges of the CMSA completed a survey; and the HPCSA's Register of Approved Registrar Posts for Faculties of Health Sciences was examined and the results tabulated. RESULTS: South Africa compares unfavourably with middleincome countries on the ratios of medical and dental professionals; many districts have limited access to specialists and subspecialists. The unacceptable ratio of doctors, dentists and other health professionals per capita needs to be remedied, given South Africa's impressive reputation for its output of health professionals, including the areas of medical training, clinical practice and clinical research. The existing output from South Africa's 8 medical schools of MB ChB and specialist graduates is not being absorbed into the public health system, and neither are other health professionals. CONCLUSION: Dynamic leadership and policy interventions are required to advocate and finance the planned increase of medical, dental and other health professionals in South Africa.