Original Research

The growth patterns of the medical technology profession in South Africa

Malcolm T. Ellapen, Terry J. Ellapen, Yvonne Paul
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 10, No 1 | a1164 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v10i1.1164 | © 2021 Malcolm T. Ellapen, Terry J. Ellapen, Yvonne Paul | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 January 2020 | Published: 23 April 2021

About the author(s)

Malcolm T. Ellapen, Department of Virology, Albert Luthuli Hospital, Durban, South Africa
Terry J. Ellapen, Department of Sport, Rehabilitation and Dental Sciences, Faculty of Health, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Yvonne Paul, Department of Sport, Rehabilitation and Dental Sciences, Faculty of Health, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Constant appraisal of healthcare workforce trends is vital; this measure determines the adequacy of the workforce in meeting its society’s healthcare demands. This includes determining the number of the incoming workforce (students, interns) and the active or practising workforce relevant registries.

Objective: This study aimed to examine patterns of workforce growth in the medical technology profession (students, interns and practitioners) from 2008 to 2018 in South Africa.

Methods: Student, intern and practitioner medical technology registries, from the 2012/2013, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) annual reports, were analysed. The number of National Health Laboratory Service and private laboratory posts were secured from the National Health Laboratory Service plan performance report. A comparison between the total number of South African medical technology (private and public) posts occupied versus the HPCSA practitioner 2016 register was completed, to determine the saturation status.

Results: Annual student, intern, and practitioner registries indicated a mean growth of 6.8%, 28.9%, and 0.7% from 2008 to 2018. The transition of interns to practitioners is progressively dwindling (2015–2018). The practitioner register showed a 1.2% decline in registration from 2013 until 2018. In 2016, only 55.9% of the HPCSA registered medical technologists were employed (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: There are more medical technologists than available public and private sector posts. The progressively growing student register compared to the dwindling practitioner register indicates attrition in the profession. An investigation identifying the reasons why graduates neglect to register as practising medical technologists should be undertaken.


Keywords

Medical technology; attrition; growth; interns; practitioner

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