n South African Medical Journal - Burn surgeons in South Africa : a rare species : research




The high burden of burn injuries in South Africa (SA) requires surgeons skilled in burn care. However, there are few dedicated burn surgeons and properly equipped units or centres.

To quantify the involvement of surgeons in burn care in SA hospitals, identify factors that attract surgeons to pursue burn care as a career and deter them from doing so, and understand the challenges of hospitals treating burn patients around the country.
This was a prospective, qualitative study. Questionnaires were handed out at the South African Burn Society Congress in September 2013 and a trade symposium in March 2014.
One hundred questionnaires were handed out, and there was a 70% response rate. Twenty-six (39%) of the respondents had a specialist surgical qualification. Only half the units had registrars (48%) and interns (51%) on their staff. Only 30% of the respondents were dedicated to burn care alone, the majority being involved on a part-time basis. The most common factor respondents suggested was needed to recruit future burn care providers, cited by 76%, was better facilities and resources. Other factors included training and skills development (59%), subspecialist training (55%), development of a diploma in burn care (52%), development of research (52%) and healthcare worker psychological support (45%).
We have demonstrated that current workforce resources for burn care are inadequate, the major deficit being lack of training and the resource-restricted environment. This survey provides basic information towards workforce planning, which can be used to inform the necessary strategic decisions.


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