South Africa and the Surgical Diaspora-A Hub for Surgical Migration and Training

Niclas Rudolfson, Adam Lantz, Mark G Shrime, Walter Johnson, Martin D Smith, Lars Hagander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The shortage of trained surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians is a major contributor to the unmet need for surgical care in low- and middle-income countries, and the shortage is aggravated by migration to higher-income countries.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional observational study, combining individual-level data of 43,621 physicians from the Health Professions Council of South Africa with data from the registers of 14 high-income countries, and international statistics on surgical workforce, in order to quantify migration to and from South Africa in both absolute and relative terms.

RESULTS: Of 6670 surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians in South Africa, a total of 713 (11%) were foreign medical graduates, and 396 (6%) were from a low- or middle-income country. South Africa was an important destination primarily for physicians originating from low-income countries; 2% of all surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians from low- and middle-income countries were registered in South Africa, and 6% in the other 14 recipient countries. A total of 1295 (16%) South African surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians worked in any of the 14 studied high-income countries.

CONCLUSION: South Africa is an important regional hub for surgical migration and training. A notable proportion of surgical specialists in South Africa were medical graduates from other low- or middle-income countries, whereas migration out of South Africa to high-income countries was even larger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1684-1691
JournalWorld Journal of Surgery
Issue number7
Early online date2023 Apr 8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economics
  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy


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