South Africa asks Canada to stop stealing doctors away

South Africa's high commissioner to Canada is pleading with the provinces to stop recruiting doctors from his country.

Andre Jaquet says South Africa is losing desperately needed physicians to Canada. He estimates South Africa is short about 3,000 doctors.

"All our rural areas are hopelessly understaffed, some sections of different hospitals have to close, and people are waiting a long time for medical treatment," Jaquet told CBC Radio.

It's a situation similar to what's happening in Canada, but South Africa faces the added pressure of huge social upheaval since the end of apartheid.

Crime rates are high and diseases like AIDS are rampant.

Negative response to letter

Jaquet has written to provincial premiers, asking them to stop recruiting South African doctors. Only Nova Scotia has agreed to do that.

Saskatchewan health officials say they try to focus on recruiting Canadian workers, but there simply aren't enough to go around.

"There is a free labour market in terms of health professionals," said Glenda Yeates, the Saskatchewan deputy minister of health.

"Canada is a desirable place to live and therefore there are foreign trained physicians who do seek opportunities here."

UN could step in

Jaquet isn't deterred by the negative responses to his letter.

He says South Africa will encourage the United Nations to create a plan for managing the distribution of doctors around the world.

That plan would include compensation for developing countries who lose doctors.