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SA may face shortage of gynaecologists

The Health Department says more doctors are avoiding gynaecology due to the high rate of claims.

FILE: The Health Department says more doctors are avoiding gynaecology due to the high rate of claims. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The Health Department says it fears South Africa may face a shortage of obstetricians to treat pregnant women within the next 10 years if exorbitant malpractice claims are not curbed.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says more and more doctors are avoiding gynaecology and obstetrics due to the high rate of claims being brought forward.

The cost of indemnity insurance, a fee paid to cover doctors in case of lawsuits, has reportedly skyrocketed in recent years.

Doctors now have to pay an upfront fee of R450,000 to run their practices compared to R75,000 eight years ago.

Motsoaledi says sharp increases in claim amounts are resulting in more doctors avoiding specialisation in these sectors.

"Those who have already registered to study in that field are changing to other fields. Those who are too old to change, they resort to practice gynecology. That means as a woman you will go to that doctor. But once you fall pregnant she says 'no I'm sorry I can no longer be your doctor, go to somebody else'."

He says it was concerning that fewer young doctors were choosing to specialise in gynaecology, neonatology, orthopaedics and other fields.

Motsoaledi accused lawyers of making money by unduly leading patients into legal battles which has now resulted in soaring costs of private medical care.

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