The pending loss of advanced life support paramedics in South Africa
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Background: In 2008 South Africa (SA) had 1631 registered advanced life support (ALS) paramedics to provide pre-hospital advanced life support care to a population of approxi-mately 50 million. Compared to globally accepted ratios, the number of ALS paramedics in South Africa can be considered as grossly inadequate. This current shortage may be ascribed to migration. However, the extent and nature of this migration, the factors that have contributed to them leaving the country and the existence or effectiveness of implemented strategies that attempt to manage migration of SA ALS paramedic is not known for sure. Methods: The study consisted of a two-phase mixed method descriptive survey. A subset of SA ALS paramedics made up the study population. Quantitative data (Phase One) was obtained from a web-based survey distributed to the accessible population (N = 97). Thereafter, qualitative data (Phase Two) was gathered through in-depth interviews with selected information rich participants (n = 10) also from within the accessible population. Through methodological triangulation, data from Phase One and Phase Two were integrated to obtain an in-depth understanding of South African ALS paramedic migration. In addition, the study investigated whether strategies that attempted to manage migration of SA ALS paramedics existed, and if they did, how effective have they been. Result: Fifty-one of 97 (53%) ALS paramedics responded to the questionnaire in Phase One. Of those, 24 (47.1%) were found to be working inside South Africa, while 27 (52.9%) were working outside South Africa. Working conditions, physical security, and economic considerations were ranked as the top three major factors contributing to the decision or intended decision to migrate. Initiatives to manage the shortage of ALS paramedics in the public sector EMS do exist; however, it appears to be inadequate at its current rate of progress. Conclusion: This study suggests that ALS paramedics in SA are leaving to ﬁnd work outside the country because of working conditions, physical security, and economic considerations. The current measures to manage migration appear to be ineffective, indicating that new or additional strategies to manage migration of ALS paramedics in SA may be required.
Govender, K.; Grainger, L.; Naidoo, R.; MacDonald, R. The pending loss of advanced life support paramedics in South Africa. 2012. African Journal of Emergency Medicine 2: 59-66.