The original FOM Scholarship Scheme was founded in conjunction with the Mosvold Hospital in Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal.
Mosvold Hospital is one of five district hospitals providing healthcare to over 550 000 indigent people in the Umkhanyakude District situated in northern KwaZulu-Natal Province. The district is remote, shares borders with Mozambique and Swaziland, and battles various social, as well as health issues. These include:
Over the years foreign healthcare professionals have been recruited to work at the hospital, but very few of these individuals are able to stay on for a long term. Innovative training programs had also been established in an attempt to encourage South African graduates to work in the district, but city-dwelling students were not easily enticed to move to a rural location.
Hospitals in the district struggled, and to a certain degree continue to struggle, to retain healthcare professionals and this compromises the quality of service provided. In fact, a situational analysis done in the district in 2006 by the Centre for Rural Health showed a 46% vacancy rate for Professional Nurses (1171 vacancies of 2546 establishment posts), a 41% vacancy rate for Medical Officers including community service officers (CSOs), and a 55% vacancy rate for Senior Medical Officers and higher.
When we started looking at recruiting healthcare professionals from the region itself we noticed that an alarmingly small number of learners from the district go on to receive tertiary education and training. This was attributed to the poor standard of education, a lack of appropriate role models and the high cost of tertiary education in South Africa (>R80 000/year).
These are the challenges we face in rural KwaZulu-Natal, and this is why the work the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation does is so incredible important.