South Africa has launched a major recruiting drive to hire thousands of foreign doctors and other healthcare professionals. South Africa ? like other African nations ? has lost many medical professionals in recent years to Europe and the United States.

VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the recruiting drive. 

?We?ve had a big problem of doctors and other health professionals leaving South Africa to go and work in other countries, particularly leaving the public health services. And the reason for that has been that they have been very poorly paid and often their working conditions less than conducive I think many of them find. So, now the government is going to recruit in other countries, including Tunisia. I think we have some Iranian doctors here already and perhaps there will be more. And we also have agreements on training with Cuba,? she says.

However, if South Africa has lost many healthcare professionals due to low pay and poor working conditions, what would be different for the new arrivals? Robertson says, ?One of the reasons could be found in the result of the recent strike, the public servants strike in South Africa. The conditions offered by the government, the package offered by the government, included creating different categories, professional employees in the health service. And these employees will receive much better remuneration than was the case in the past.?  Robertson says that action is also being taken to keep South African trained doctors and healthcare workers in the country through better pay and working conditions.

The VOA reporter says there?s little doubt where the foreign workers would be sent. ?I think a great many of them would be assigned to the rural areas. It?s very difficult for the public health service, or has been up until now?to employ staff in the rural areas and to keep them there because these are remote areas?but also public hospitals around the cities in the urban areas,? she says.