Dr ZL Mkhize
Minister of Health

Mr LO Mabuyane
Premier of the Eastern Cape Province

Dear Honourable Minister and Honourable Premier

Short-term and long-term fate of a group of 32 Eastern Cape unemployed pharmacists

1. A group of registered pharmacists from the Eastern Cape (‘the group’) recently approached me with their plight and it shook me to the core. This is a group of 32 highly trained health professionals who cannot find employment in a time in South Africa where we are fighting the battle of our lives against Covid-19 and it is unfathomable that citizens with these critical skills find themselves without purpose and without work.

2. I request your good offices to urgently consider the group’s well thought-out broad request that they be absorbed into the healthcare system in the Eastern Cape to assist with the rollout of the government’s Covid-19 vaccination programme and the general value chain of pharmaceutical services.

3. The group wants to add value through their experiences, highlighting that the skills they had gained throughout their training are of value to the healthcare system and also to stress the plight of the growing number of unemployed pharmacists, for what used to be a scarce skill.

4. This group of qualified young health professionals wants to be part of the mission of the Human Resources for Health (HRH) South Africa Strategy for the Health Sector (2012/13 – 2016/17) to ensure a health workforce fit for purpose to meet our country’s health needs by:
• Ensuring necessary and equitable staffing of the health system.
• Developing health professionals and cadres to meet health and health care needs.
• Ensuring the health workforce has an optimal working environment and rewarding careers.
• Ensuring innovative and efficient recruitment and retention of health workforce.
• Enabling clinical research which enhances clinical and service development.
• Providing the organization and infrastructure for health workforce development.
• Providing quality professional care that is effective and evidence based.
• Ensuring the regulatory, organizational environment and leadership by National Department of Health to support HRH.

5. Lastly, the group would like to raise several other concerns with you, Minister Mkhize, which is that:
5.1. there is already a lag in interest from young people to study pharmacy. As proof, aside from their own experience, they provide you with a letter from Mr Mawande Golozana (Pharmacy Manager of the Nelson Mandela Academic Clinical Research Unit) to a publication of the Young Pharmacists’ Group of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa that paint a stark picture of the profession in South Africa at the moment.

5.2. They however want to caution against discouraging future generations from choosing pharmacy as a career option. The group believes it would be wrong to make young people feel that it is not a worthwhile pursuit, because they all strongly believe that there is no healthcare system without pharmaceutical services.

5.3. There is a belief that must be combatted in academia, which is that there is a: “separatist nature of only valuing bursary holders as this may create the impression that, if you are not a bursary holder, then your skills set is not important.”

6. As a reminder and for your ease of reference, I attach the group’s petition of 22 January 2021 that had been addressed to both of you – amongst others – as it is poignantly and insightfully crafted, and also will provide you with the names of the affected pharmacists.

7. From my interaction with one of the representatives of this group it is clear that they are informed, well-articulated young people who do not only have their personal futures at heart, but also the future of their profession. This kind of intellect, passion and forethought must be attended to and nurtured.

8. I therefore appeal, on their behalf, to your good offices for urgent assistance in any respect of the various good suggestions which they have already taken the initiative to propose.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement